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HHS announces new rule to bolster disability protections under Federal law

Young female caregiver helping a senior man in a wheelchair in a nursing home at night smiling

The US Department of Health and Human Services unveiled a proposed rule aimed at bolstering initiatives to combat disability-based discrimination on Thursday. This proposal emphasizes the necessity of offering services in settings that are as integrated as possible, catering adeptly to the unique needs of persons with disabilities.

“It’s 2023, yet for many Americans accessing basic health needs is still challenging.  Some persons with disabilities may have to drive hours to get an accessible mammogram or receive the benefit and advancements of our health care system.  This historic proposed rule will advance justice for people with disabilities and help ensure they are not subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving funding from HHS just because they have a disability,” said Secretary Xavier Becerra.

“While we have made significant progress since Section 504 was signed into law nearly 50 years ago, there is more work for us all to live up its promise to the American people,” said HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Director Melanie Fontes Rainer. “This rule is long overdue and a major step forward in the fight to ensure that people with disabilities are not excluded from or discriminated against in health care and social services across the United States.”

The newly proposed rule significantly enhances the provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a cornerstone nondiscrimination legislation that guarantees the rights of persons with disabilities to fully access and participate in health services supported by the HHS. This rule serves to elucidate the mandates established by the act, harmonizing them with the stipulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the subsequent Amendments Act, recent alterations to the Rehabilitation Act, and pertinent case law, thereby fostering a more unified and robust framework to safeguard the rights of individuals with disabilities, as highlighted in the official statement.

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