January 13, 2017

US Access Board Sets Accessibility Standards for Medical Diagnostic Equipment

The U.S. Access Board has issued new accessibility standards for medical diagnostic equipment (MDE) intended to enhance accessibility of diagnostic equipment, including mammography and other radiological equipment, for people with disabilities. The standards establish design criteria related to equipment that accommodates mobility devices without patient transfer as well as criteria for features such as support rails, armrests, compatibility with lift devices, etc., to facilitate transfers for patients who have disabilities.

The Access Board was tasked with the responsibility of establishing such standards through a provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requiring the board to develop minimum technical criteria for medical diagnostic equipment used in (or in conjunction with) physician's offices, clinics, emergency rooms, hospitals and other medical settings. The provisions specified that the standards “shall ensure that such equipment is accessible to, and usable by, individuals with accessibility needs, and shall allow independent entry to, use of, and exit from the equipment by such individuals to the maximum extent possible.” The ACR provided extensive input throughout the multiyear process that culminated in the Access Board recommendations.

As issued by the board, the standards are not mandatory on health care providers and equipment manufacturers. However, the U.S. Department of Justice, which has issued guidance on access to medical care, could adopt them as mandatory requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Likewise, other federal agencies could implement them under the Rehabilitation Act, which requires access to federally funded programs and services.