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Approximately a quarter of Americans have physical, developmental, or mental disability. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed over three decades ago, most doctors and other educated individuals are found to know very little about it.

Most practicing doctors unaware of their statutory duties under the ADA

The public perceives the healthcare industry as a refuge in a desolate planet, but scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) discovered that it is not the case. Several practicing doctors are unaware of their statutory duties under the Act, and 70% are unaware of who determines what qualifies as a justifiable accommodation for an individual with a disability.

Lead study author Lisa Iezzoni said, Despite the fact people with disabilities comprise 25 percent of the population, they often confront barriers to basic health care services such as physical examinations, weight measurement, and effective communication with their physicians.”

Iezzoni added that significant changes are required in physician education regarding the need for more open and accommodative healthcare delivery infrastructures to provide more affordable healthcare and social equity for individuals with disabilities.

The ADA is a statute that forbids discrimination against individuals with disabilities and comes into effect in 1990. It requires doctors and patients to collaborate and find reasonable solutions to ensure equitable and accessible healthcare for individuals with disabilities. 

Investigators polled physicians from outpatient officers. 

MGH investigators polled around 714 physicians across outpatient offices around the US. The outcomes were unexpected. More than a third (36%) were unaware of their legal obligations with regard to ADA compliance. An additional 71% mistakenly estimated who gets to determine what qualifies as a “reasonable accommodation.” On the subject of who pays for accommodation, 21% were unsure. However, 68% of respondents were worried about being sued if they didn’t comply.

Iezzoni observes that the absence of knowledge about those who make judgments concerning accommodations raises significant healthcare equity and quality considerations. She said that individuals with disabilities must ask physicians about accommodation and preferences when scheduling appointments.