Access to Hospitals and Other Healthcare Facilities for Disabled Persons with Service Animals

Presenters: Sally Conway, U.S. Department of Justice, Deputy Chief of the Disability Rights Section & Eileen Hanrahan, J.D., the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, Supervisory Civil Rights Analyst in the Office of Civil Rights.

(Duration: 1 hour 19 minutes)

There are two very important federal civil rights laws pertaining to the access rights of disabled persons with assistance dogs in a health care setting in the USA. Unfortunately, these laws seem to be poorly understood by many members of the health care provider community insofar as their legal obligations with regard to the civil rights of assistance dog partners. Some hospitals, physicians and other healthcare providers have put out a welcome mat and do bend over backwards to accommodate assistance dog teams. We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge their exemplary efforts.

Which law should disabled persons cite if they encounter an access problem with their guide dog, hearing dog or service dog in health care facilities? Is it Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in 1990? In what situations would each law apply or take precedence? What are the rights and responsibilities of health care providers? Which federal agency should be contacted for additional information or enforcement purposes? These are just some of the questions on which we sought clarification.

This workshop is a tremendous educational opportunity for assistance dog partners, their families, hospital employees (especially administrators, security guards, patient care and/or ADA coordinators), doctors, dentists and many other health care providers, legal consultants, assistance dog training programs, advocates in the disabled community and relevant state agencies. This workshop covers a wide range of topics and discusses options on how to handle complicated issues that can arise. The representatives of these two federal agencies also addressed specific questions submitted by IAADP which our Information & Advocacy Center had received from disabled persons and hospital administrators seeking guidance.

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