When choosing or upgrading your office there is one consideration that will have a profound impact. Prioritizing it will help you —
- retain clients for decades
- appeal to clients who need your services regularly
- decrease the need to make house calls
- contract with insurance companies
- participate in federal programs (such as Veterans Choice and ACA plans)
- gain respect and referrals from other health care providers
- keep your office in one location for the duration of your career
- reduce legal threats
- minimize workplace injuries to you and your staff
- comply with civil rights law.
It’s a win, win, win, win, win, win, win,win, win, win.
That consideration is compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in every day activities, including medical services. Any private entity that owns, leases or leases to, or operates a place of public accommodation (that includes your office) is responsible for complying with Title III of the ADA. (Source – DOJ/HHS Publication)
19% of the US population reported having a disability in the 2010 census.
If you are blessed with good client retention and a lengthy career your patient population is likely to increasingly include those with disabilities. You might develop your own temporary, or permanent, mobility issues.
Acupuncture schools need to teach students about our responsibilities under the ADA. Ethics classes should address the de facto discrimination that occurs when we choose inaccessible work spaces. And, when practitioners seek advice from peers about potential office arrangements, renovations, or accommodations (such as interpreters) emphasis should be on the legal, ethical, and practical benefits of compliance. Preemptive absolution is offered too often, especially by those who don’t understand the law.
The ADA does include exemptions to protect small businesses from accommodations that would be an “undue burden.” Is a $2,000 lift table an undue burden? How much have you spent on Biomats, lasers, tuning forks, and travel to conferences? Rent for a first floor office might be more, but house calls also affect your bottom line. (If you rely on house calls to comply with the ADA requirements for accessibility, remember: you can’t charge more, you must offer the same level of service, you have to offer flexible scheduling as you would to your in-office clients, and, if you are accepting new clients it is discrimination not to accept those whose disability would make your office inaccessible.)
It’s true, individual practitioners who don’t comply are unlikely to suffer legal consequences and many Practices flourish despite a lack of accessibility.
“Getting away” with not complying is no way to run a business or a health care profession. Doing all we can to meet the needs of those with disabilities is good business, good for the profession, and good for the public. It should be a top priority.
Here are some resources to help you understand the ADA and our responsibilities —