December 2001 Bulletin

Practices adhere to ADA law

Provide accommodations for disabled employees, patients

By Sandra Lee Breisch

Is your practice in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? If so, you’ve made reasonable accommodations for disabled individuals for employment, public services, public accommodations, telecommunications and other miscellaneous provisions.

According to the ADA, a person is disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the individual’s major life activities, has a record of such impairment and is regarded as having such an impairment.

To be sure KSF Orthopaedic Center in Houston would be in ADA compliance when the law was passed in 1990, administrator, Michael A. Berkowitz, says they brought in a consultant to incorporate ADA language into their Human Resources handbook. They also wanted to be sure that the practice’s physical site could accommodate the disabled.

"We wanted to make sure we were not in violation of ADA and up to code," recalls Berkowitz, a member of the BONES Society, a national organization of business administrators. "We made some changes to ensure our facility accommodated the disabled when they entered and exited the building by putting in handicap ramps. We also doubled the number of handicap parking spaces from 6 to 12. We made sure we had enough room in the waiting room to accommodate wheel chairs and walkers. The bathrooms were renovated to add a handicap stall and handrails." The drinking fountains also had to be low enough so a person in a wheel chair could drink from it, he said.

The practice also had to make contractual arrangements with an oral or sign language interpreter for the deaf or hearing-impaired patients. "We found out our practice had to pay for those services," Berkowitz recalls. "But we were readily prepared."

Housed in one building are the Associated Orthopedic Specialties, LLP and the Central Texas Spine Institute, LLP in Austin, Texas. James M. Gdula, business manager for the group, says all of the signage in the building is in Braille. "This includes the elevators and plaques denoting where the office suites are located," he says. "We also have handicap parking spaces to easily accommodate the mobility impaired."

Both practices’ web sites allow the hearing impaired and other challenged individuals to request an interpreter, download patient registration forms and ask for an appointment online.

"We’re in the process of updating our employee handbook to incorporate ADA language," says Gdula. "However, we have recently made job accommodations for an employee with mobility problems that allows this individual to work at home when not physically able. This complies with ADA guidelines."

Well aware of the ADA provision that prohibits coercing, threatening or retaliating against the disabled or those attempting to aid people with disabilities in asserting their rights under the ADA, Gdula plans to incorporate the information into the employee handbook.

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