People with disabilities have the same rights to access and civil rights as people without disabilities. Due to the history of discrimination against people with disabilities, the health disparities experienced, and their lack of access to housing, health care, transportation, and employment, there have been many laws and regulations enacted to protect their civil rights and ensure equal access and opportunities for people with disabilities. Foundational knowledge about laws and regulations that protect people with disabilities is essential to providing appropriate public health services, but also to avoid breaking laws and encroaching on the civil rights of people with disabilities.
Example: Jane works at the local health department on preventative screening programs for women. She gets a call from Sandra who has mobility challenges and uses a wheelchair. Sandra is interested in a well woman visit at a gynecologist office, but the exam table is inaccessible. Jane is familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and realizes Sandra may be experiencing access barriers to routine screenings because of lack of compliance with regulations set by the ADA. Jane refers Sandra to resources on the ADA and community contacts to assist her with filing a complaint. She also directs Sandra to accessible medical offices in her local area.