Knowledge Of Practicing Physicians About Their Legal Obligations When Caring For Patients With Disability

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Disability civil rights laws require equitable treatment of the approximately sixty-one million Americans with disability. However, federal reports and numerous research studies indicate that this diverse and growing population often experiences health care disparities. To examine one possible contributing factor, we interviewed practicing physicians to explore their knowledge of their obligations to accommodate patients with disability under federal civil rights law. Interviewees reported having had little formal training about, and demonstrated superficial or incorrect understanding of, their obligations in three potentially problematic areas: deciding which accommodations their practices should implement, refusing patients with disability, and holding patients accountable for costs of accommodations. The fact that practicing physicians might not fully understand their legal responsibilities when caring for people with disability may contribute to persisting inequity in their care, and it suggests that further education in the Americans with Disabilities Act and other disability civil rights laws may be warranted.