Bronx Independent Living Services (BILS), et al. v. Union Community Health Center (UCHC), et al.

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In September 2016, Disability Rights Advocates announced a settlement of its federal class-action lawsuit on behalf of Bronx Independent Living Services (“BILS”) and three individuals with disabilities in the Bronx, alleging that the Union Community Health Center (“UCHC”) and St. Barnabas Hospital discriminate against patients with disabilities. Specifically, the suit had alleged that the UCHC medical facility located at 2021 Grand Concourse in the Bronx had systematically refused to treat patients with disabilities, failed to correct widespread architectural barriers, failed to provide accessible medical and diagnostic equipment, and maintained ineffective policies and procedures for accommodating patients with disabilities.  The settlement unveiled a comprehensive plan to provide accessible health care for patients with disabilities in the Bronx.

This unique collaboration between a healthcare provider and the disability community provides an accessibility roadmap for other community health centers.  The comprehensive plan includes:

  • Alternative formats (such as braille, audio, and large print) for blind patients;
  • American Sign Language as a first resort for deaf and hard of hearing patients upon request;
  • Organizational training that promotes best practices to meet the needs of patients and visitors with disabilities;
  • Height-adjustable medical equipment so that people with disabilities can be examined properly; and
  • Redesign of architectural barriers that affect persons with mobility and visual disabilities.

The Bronx is New York City’s most medically underserved borough, with poverty rates hovering around 30% and as many as one in eight residents living with a disability.  By prioritizing patients with disabilities, UCHC is a model for community health centers in underserved areas across the country.

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