Last week, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra hosted a press conference to announce a rule proposed by the HHS Office for Civil Rights that would update Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This is the first time these critical regulations will have been updated since they were originally signed in 1977, after four years of tireless advocacy and a 28-day protest led by disability civil rights leaders.
Updates to the rule include:
- Clarifications on the obligations to provide services in the most integrated setting appropriate to a person’s needs, consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C;
- Medical treatment decisions are not based on biases or stereotypes about people with disabilities, judgments that an individual will be a burden on others, or beliefs that the life of an individual with a disability has less value than the life of a person without a disability;
- Adoption of standards for accessible diagnostic medical treatment;
- Adoption of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, Level AA, which are accessibility standards for websites and mobile applications;
- Clarification of requirements in HHS-funded child welfare programs and activities to help eliminate discriminatory barriers faced by children, parents, caregivers, foster parents, and prospective parents with disabilities; and
- Prohibition of the use of value-of-life assessments in treatment decisions.