4

A fiercely independent, elderly, and legally blind woman walks into a doctor's office. Since she can’t read the intake forms, she requests the staff help her fill them out. Rather then help her, the staff instead let her see the doctor without them and send the blank forms home with her.

The next visit the forms are still not filled out. The office staff express annoyance but still let her see the doctor and again send the blank forms home. They still refuse to help her fill them out.

After this happens a third time, the staff has had enough and refuse to allow her to make any more appointments.

Is the office required to accommodate this legally blind woman without forcing her to use her friends and/or family as interpreters (thus exposing her private medical information to them)?

2

Under SubChapter III, section 12181. paragraph (7) (F) of the Americans With Disabilities act (ADA), a "professional office of a health care provider, hospital, or other service establishment;" is a public accommodation.

Section 12182 (a) provides that:

No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.

Section 12182 (b) (1) (A) provides that:

(i) Denial of participation

It shall be discriminatory to subject an individual or class of individuals on the basis of a disability or disabilities of such individual or class, directly, or through contractual, licensing, or other arrangements, to a denial of the opportunity of the individual or class to participate in or benefit from the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of an entity.

(ii) Participation in unequal benefit

It shall be discriminatory to afford an individual or class of individuals, on the basis of a disability or disabilities of such individual or class, directly, or through contractual, licensing, or other arrangements with the opportunity to participate in or benefit from a good, service, facility, privilege, advantage, or accommodation that is not equal to that afforded to other individuals.

Section 12182 (b) (1) (D) provides that:

(D) Administrative methods

An individual or entity shall not, directly or through contractual or other arrangements, utilize standards or criteria or methods of administration

(i) that have the effect of discriminating on the basis of disability

Section 12182 (b) (2) (A) provides that:

For purposes of subsection (a) of this section, discrimination includes: ...

(ii) a failure to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures, when such modifications are necessary to afford such goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to individuals with disabilities, unless the entity can demonstrate that making such modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of such goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations;

(iii) a failure to take such steps as may be necessary to ensure that no individual with a disability is excluded, denied services, segregated or otherwise treated differently than other individuals because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services, unless the entity can demonstrate that taking such steps would fundamentally alter the nature of the good, service, facility, privilege, advantage, or accommodation being offered or would result in an undue burden;

It would seem that failure of the people in the office to give assistance would constitute a violation of Section 12182 (b) (2) (A) (iii) and that giving such assitance would be required as a reasonable modification under Section 12182 (b) (2) (A) (ii). Section Section 12182 (a) and Section 12182 (b) (1) (A) would also seem to apply.

Filing an actual suit under the ADA would be a possibly costly and time consuming solution, however. It would probably require a lawyer knowledgeable in DA practice. Possibly merely pointing out to the office staff that such assistance is needed, or if that does not work that the ADA requires such assistance would suffice.

As a different possible solution, many (but not all) legally blind people are able to read printed materiel and fill out forms with the help of an assistive device, such as a light-and-magnifier system. Some years ago I helped a legally blind friend obtain such a system, and she found it very useful.

5
  • Deaf people make doctors hire interpreters. Can a blind person do the same? – candied_orange Feb 12 at 1:49
  • @candied_orange Why would a separate interpreter be needed for a blind person? For a deaf person one needs someone who knows sign language I would think. That said, the requirement is to take a measure which allows full participation. whatever has this effect should do. – David Siegel Feb 12 at 2:00
  • 2
    what is required is someone who speaks, hears, reads (in 12 point font), and writes English who is also willing to help. The staff have failed on the last point. – candied_orange Feb 12 at 2:02
  • 1
    The hope is that threatening to hire such a person, who the office would be required to pay, would make them reconsider being willing to help. But does the blind woman qualify for that the way a Deaf person does? – candied_orange Feb 12 at 2:13
  • What is a good way to inform the staff of these rights? Is there something better than just printing out this Q&A? – candied_orange Feb 12 at 2:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.