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AAPD Applauds Historic HHS Rule on Disability Discrimination

by | May 2, 2024 | Accessibility, Disability Rights, Health, Press Release

For Immediate Release: May 2, 2024

Contact: Jess Davidson at jdavidson@aapd.com; 202-975-0960 


WASHINGTON – Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced the finalization of a new regulation to prevent disability discrimination under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The new rule, Discrimination on the Basis of Disability in Health and Human Service Programs or Activities, is one of the greatest advancements towards health equity for disabled people in American history. 

“The enactment of this rule is the direct result of more than fifty years of advocacy from the disability community, and the community’s influence on the rule shows,” said Maria Town, AAPD President and CEO. “These new regulations are one of the strongest and most meaningful tools our community has ever possessed to defend ourselves  against disability discrimination. People with disabilities routinely experience discrimination in medical settings, where ableism can be a matter of life and death. While this rule will not end ableism, it  provides us with a meaningful tool if and when we do encounter bias while interacting with child welfare systems, adoption agencies, and in healthcare settings that receive federal funds. This rule is going to save and lengthen lives, keep families together and keep people in their communities, and improve access to and quality of medical care disabled people receive.” 

“I am grateful for the leadership of Secretary Xavier Becerra and the team at HHS’ Office for Civil Rights for their work to make this historic advancement happen. I am also especially grateful to the members of the disability community who took the time to share their stories with AAPD to help HHS create a rule that centered us as much as possible,” Town concluded. 

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is a law that prevents discrimination based on disability by entities that receive federal funding. 

Specifically, the rule:

  • Requires that medical treatment decisions are not made on the basis of ableist biases or stereotypes about disabled people, assumptions or judgments that an individual with a disability will be a burden on society, or dehumanizing beliefs that the life of an individual with a disability has less value than the life of a person without a disability.
  • Prohibits, consistent with a recommendation by the National Council on Disability, the use of any measure, assessment, or tool that discounts the value of a life extension on the basis of disability to deny, limit, or otherwise condition access to any HHS-funded aid, benefit or service.
  • Defines what accessibility means for websites and mobile applications and sets forth a specific technical standard to ensure that health care and human service activities delivered through these platforms are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.
  • Adopts the U.S. Access Board’s standards for accessible medical diagnostic equipment, such as exam tables and mammography machines.
  • Detailed requirements to ensure that parents and prospective parents with disabilities are not discriminated against in the services provided by HHS-funded child welfare or adoption agencies, including, but not limited to, reasonable efforts to prevent foster care placement, ensure that home assessment tools and parenting skills programs are not biased against parents with disabilities, parent-child visitation, reunification services, child placement, and in- and out-of-home services The rule also requires child welfare agencies to establish procedures for referring qualified parents or prospective parents, who because of disability, need or are believed to need modified or adaptive services.
  • Clarifies obligations to provide services in the most integrated setting, like receiving services in one’s own home, appropriate to the needs of individuals with disabilities.This brings HHS 504 rules into alignment with the Supreme Court’s landmark Olmstead v. L.C. decision.

Additionally, the Final Rule updates existing requirements to make them consistent with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), as many HHS funding recipients are also covered by the ADA. This consistency will improve and simplify compliance.