June 6: Effective Communication Requirements in Healthcare

An “Informational Meeting on the ADA’s Effective Communication Requirements in Healthcare Settings” will take place, virtually, from 1pm to 4pm on Tuesday, June 6, 2023. A press release dated April 14, 2023 on the DOJ website refers healthcare providers and the public to a “Dear Colleagues” letter from Steven Gordon, Assistant United States Attorney. For reference, the letter includes a list of issues discovered during investigations of healthcare providers that have failed to comply with the ADA’s effective communication requirements. Mr. Gordon welcomes questions and relevant information prior to the June 6 meeting; see his letter for contact information. 

Free Registration LINK for JUNE 6 Meeting >> 

“Ensuring that healthcare providers are complying with the ADA by being accessible to individuals with communication disabilities is a critical mission of this Office,” said U.S. Attorney Jessica D. Aber. “We look forward to meeting with personnel from healthcare providers so that we can discuss the ADA’s effective communication requirements in healthcare settings.” 

Excerpts from the “Dear Colleagues” Letter

“To assist the community, my office is organizing an online informational meeting for the public, including personnel at healthcare providers, on Tuesday, June 6, 2023 at 1 pm. We want to provide information on steps healthcare providers can take to comply with the ADA’s effective communication requirements and also provide an opportunity for questions and collaboration. We invite the public, including all personnel from healthcare providers to this meeting. To register for the meeting click here.

Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-34 & 12181-89, prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in a range of covered areas, including healthcare services. The ADA applies to all types of private and state and local government healthcare providers, including, but not limited to, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, urgent care centers, physicians, dentists, optometrists, mental health providers, and medical equipment providers. Further, the ADA applies to all services that covered entities provide, including in-person medical services, telehealth appointments and websites.

Pursuant to the ADA, healthcare providers are required to ensure that communication with people with disabilities is as effective as communication with people without disabilities. Healthcare providers are required to take affirmative steps including furnishing appropriate auxiliary aids and services, such as qualified sign language interpreters to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, accessible electronic technology to individuals who are blind or have low vision, and speech-to-speech transliterators for individuals who have speech disabilities. Further, healthcare providers may not decline to provide treatment to an individual solely because they have a disability and may need auxiliary aids and services.

The Department of Justice (“DOJ”), including this office, is committed to protecting the civil rights of individuals with communication disabilities. We have investigated and enforced the ADA against numerous healthcare providers due to their failures to comply with the ADA’s effective communication requirements.

For more information on the ADA, visit https://www.ada.gov or call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD).

If you have any questions or additional relevant information, please feel free to email me at steve.gordon@usdoj.gov or call me at (703) 299-3817. We look forward to speaking with you on June 6, 2023 at 1 pm.”

What can the Palm Beach County Office of Equal Opportunity do to Help You?

The October 2019 meeting of the HLAA Chapter for South Palm Beach County featured a speaker who did a wonderful job of explaining what her office does to protect people from discrimination in housing, employment and places of public accommodation.  

Pam Guerrier, Director of the County’s Office of Equal Opportunity, made it very clear that the burden of an investigation falls on her staff – not the general public. Residents of the county merely have to bring information, including simple “hunches,” to her office and they will be fully investigated. The other important message for chapter members: “Your one and only job is to explain to the operator/manager of a public space what your disability is and how they need to accommodate you. There is no need to carry a doctor’s note or any evidence of what your disability is.”  Her example:  If you speak to a theater manager, explain that you are hearing impaired or deaf and describe the type(s) of assistance that will allow you to hear/understand/participate in that venue — from Captions to Loops to ASL — and how the assistance/technology will accommodate your specific needs. 

For more information, or to file a complaint notice with Pam’s office, visit Palm Beach County’s website for the OEO. Click here for the complaint form related to spaces of public accommodation. Phone: 561-355-4884 or  561-355-1517 (TTY/TDD)

Office of Equal Opportunity’s Mission Statement

The Office of Equal Opportunity’s (OEO) mission is to promote a discrimination free quality of life for Palm Beach County residents through educating and advocating a policy of nondiscrimination and enforcing local, state and federal civil rights laws. 

OEO is responsible for investigating and resolving complaints of discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations on the basis of race, sex, color, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, marital status or familial status and gender identity or expression. Additionally, OEO provides human relations training and referral services. OEO is a federally recognized equivalent agency under the federal civil rights laws – Title VII (employment discrimination cases) and Title VIII (fair housing cases). Through OEO, Palm Beach County residents have direct access to protection of civil rights laws. 

OEO also is responsible for the County’s Disability Accessibility program. This program assures that County government and countywide organizations and public facilities maintain compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act by enforcing the County’s Handicapped Parking Program and helps to remedy discrimination against persons with disabilities in housing, access to facilities and services, employment and all other areas of equal access.