Federal Government Affirms Right to Disability Support Persons at Hospitals


June 10, 2020 | by Amber Smock

Dear Access Living friends and allies,

As many of you know, the problem of hospital no-visitor policies during Covid-19 has been a serious challenge for many, many people with disabilities. While Illinois has been fortunate to be an early adopter of guidance that bans discrimination in Covid-19 treatment and also reminds hospitals that disability support persons are allowed, this is not the case nationwide.

Today the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights (HHS OCR) announced a resolution that makes it clear that federal law requires hospitals and the state agencies overseeing them to modify policies to ensure patients with disabilities can safely access the in-person supports needed to benefit from medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic. This stems from advocacy in the state of Connecticut.

See the actual resolution from HHS OCR at this link. The advocates involved include the Center for Public Representation (CPR), Disability Rights Connecticut, Communication First, The Arc of the United States, and other Connecticut disability organizations.

See a statement from CPR at this link. CPR also maintains a national listing of efforts towards Covid-19 non-discrimination efforts at this link.

The Illinois guidance on Covid-19 non-discrimination is here. This has been in effect since April 10. Related to visitors who are support persons, the key language in the Illinois guidance is as follows:

“Persons with disabilities should be permitted to rely on reasonable accommodations that provide meaningful access to information and equal opportunity to benefit from the treatment. For example, these modifications might include interpreter services or the presence of an assistant, aide, or family member, provided that essential precautions can be taken to contain the spread of infection. Use of technology should also be considered in evaluating necessary reasonable accommodations.”

As a reminder, if you experience disability discrimination in ILLINOIS in seeking treatment for Covid-19, Access Living wants to hear from you.