Q. Is it OK to examine a patient who uses a wheelchair, in the wheelchair because the patient cannot get onto the exam table independently?
A. Generally no. Examining a patient in their wheelchair usually is less thorough than on the exam table, and does not provide the patient equal medical services. There are several ways to make the exam table accessible to a person using a wheelchair. A good option is to have a table that adjusts down to the level of a wheelchair, approximately 17-19 inches from the floor.
What is important is that a person with a disability receives equal medical services to those received by a person without a disability. If the examination does not require that a person lie down (for example, an examination of the face), then the exam table is not important to the medical care and the patient may remain seated.
Q. Can a doctor tell a patient they cannot treat them because they don't have accessible medical equipment?
A. Generally no. A medical office cannot deny service to a patient whom they would otherwise serve because they have a disability. The doctor or provider must examine the patient as they would any patient. In order to do so, they may need to provide an accessible exam table, an accessible stretcher or gurney, or a patient lift, or have enough trained staff available who can assist the patient to transfer.
Q. Is it OK for a doctor to tell a patient who has a disability to bring along someone who can help at the exam?
A. No. A patient with a disability, just like other individuals, may come to an appointment alone, and the provider must provide reasonable assistance to enable the individual to receive the medical care.
This assistance may include helping the patient to undress and dress, get on and off the exam table or other equipment, and lie back and be positioned on the examination table or other equipment. Once on the exam table, some patients may need a staff person to stay with them to help maintain balance and positioning. The provider should ask the patient if he or she needs any assistance and, if so, what is the best way to help.
Q. Can a doctor decide not to treat a patient with a disability because it takes them longer to examine them, and insurance won't reimburse for the additional time?
A. No, a doctor you cannot refuse to treat a patient who has a disability just because the exam might take more time.
Q. What if the doctor or medical office personnel do not want to lift people who use wheelchairs onto exam tables because they are concerned they may injury themselves?
A. Staff should be protected from injury, but that doesn't justify refusing to provide equal medical services to individuals with disabilities. The medical provider can protect his or her staff from injury by providing accessible equipment, such as an adjustable exam table and/or a ceiling or floor-based patient lift, and training on proper patient handling techniques as necessary to provide equal medical services to a patient with a disability.
Q. What should a medical office do if the staff does not know how to help a person with a disability transfer or know what the ADA requires a medical office to do?
A. To provide medical services in an accessible manner, the medical provider and staff will likely need to receive training. If the provider is unsure of how to handle something, it is absolutely OK to ask the patient what works best.
Q. If a doctor or medical provider leases their office space, are they responsible for making sure the examination room, waiting room, and toilet rooms are accessible?
A. Any private entity that owns, leases or leases to, or operates a place of public accommodation is responsible for complying with Title III of the ADA.