WASHINGTON — The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a proposed rule today that would significantly expand civil rights and nondiscrimination protections in health care and family services for people with disabilities. The proposed regulation, which expands the reach of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act into new critical areas, comes 50 years after the groundbreaking civil rights law was passed.
The proposed rule, published today in the Federal Register, clarifies that Section 504 protections against disability discrimination apply in the child welfare system; in medical treatment decisions based on stereotypes or biases; in the design of medical equipment; and in the accessibility of websites and applications in medical contexts, among many other areas.
“Fifty years after Congress passed the Rehabilitation Act, this expansion of its reach is a crucial advancement for the civil rights of people with disabilities,” said Susan Mizner, director of the Disability Rights Program at the American Civil Liberties Union. “In too many parts of our health care and child welfare systems, disability discrimination remains pervasive. Doctors assume a patient with a disability has a lower quality of life. Child welfare staff assume a parent with a disability cannot provide adequate parenting. This proposed rule is a huge step forward to combat these harmful stereotypes. We applaud the Biden administration for putting this proposed rule forward.”