Essential hospitals are invested in the needs of their communities and have a great understanding of the populations they serve. When it comes to disability, essential hospitals strive to be inclusive and accessible for all.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed by Congress in July 1990, was the first civil rights law to prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and public and private places open to the public. In 2008, Congress amended the ADA to broaden the definition of “disability” and increase the number of people protected by the law.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) updated its Health Observance Page to celebrate 31 years of the ADA. The page includes various resources and toolkits on caring for the disability community.

To recognize Disability Pride Month and honor the anniversary of the ADA, we showcase several ongoing member programs to support communities with disabilities.

Patient-Centered Cerebral Palsy Treatment

A patient-centered approach is key to ensuring patients with cerebral palsy can live as independently as possible and achieve their highest quality of life. At UCLA Health’s Center for Cerebral Palsy, providers follow three core pillars of care to drive success: clinical treatment, research, and education. Rachel Thompson, MD, director of the center, explains each of these pillars are interrelated and drive success.

“At the Center for Cerebral Palsy, we use clinical treatments to best serve our patients and treat them with dignity,” says Thompson. Thompson explains that UCLA’s prestigious research labs, coupled with the center’s commitment to education, ensure therapists understand how to care for patients through evidence-based practices and drives greater public understanding about cerebral palsy. The center, which sees patients directly after they leave the neonatal intensive care unit and throughout their lifespan, is part of a larger Cerebral Palsy Research Network of hospitals and community members advancing research to improve the health outcomes for people with this disease.

Empathetic Care for ALS Patients

Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS, is a progressive illness that attacks nerve cells that control muscles throughout the body, leading to disability. The Hennepin Healthcare ALS Center of Excellence was the first ALS Association–certified Center of Excellence in Minnesota. A key feature is the center’s commitment to patient-centered care.

Samuel Maiser, MD, a physician at Hennepin, explains, “We value keeping the patient in the driver’s seat so that they can be in control of their life and body, not ALS. This is only possible through compassionate communication and decision making with the patient that is both honest and empathic.”

A Multitiered Approach to Inclusive Deaf Care

Sinai Health System, in Chicago, supports the deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf-blind communities through its Sinai Deaf Health program, offering American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter services. Sinai Deaf Health caters to all patients in need of ASL services and is inclusive of different communication needs.

Sinai Deaf Health offers two full-time highly skilled ASL interpreters, agency interpreters, and video remote interpreting ASL interpreters. Their inclusive approach also allows the program to reach a wide net of patients — the program sees more than 1,100 patients annually, has an average of 2,300 interpreted ASL encounters, and receives patients from neighboring states. Mireya Vera, director of language interpreter programs at Sinai, credits the program’s success with its multitier approach to reaching the unique needs of all patients.