The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recently put forth a proposed ruling on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to enhance protections for people with disabilities from being discriminated against on the basis of disability by any entity that receives federal funding. The ruling was open for public comment for two months and specifically called for feedback regarding ongoing issues of discrimination in the following areas: Medical Treatment, Use of Value Assessments, Child Welfare, Web Accessibility and Medical Equipment. Submitting public comment is an opportunity to use one’s voice to improve legislation to better reflect the experiences of those affected by the law under consideration. In the case of Section 504, amplifying the voices of people with disabilities and those who support this community is critical to influence change.

Led by LEND Health Administration and Social Work Trainee Libby Quinn, Oregon Health & Science University Institute on Development and Disability opted to submit comment as an organization. Over the course of a month, Quinn led several workshops to inform Oregon UCEDD community members and partners about Section 504, the details of the proposed changes, and the significance of submitting public comment. As an AUCD Emerging Leader in the field herself, this project gave Quinn the chance to engage with other professionals and people with lived experience to collect and consolidate diverse perspectives on this issue to share with the DHHS. For Quinn’s work as a LEND Fellow at OHSU, the proposed updates and amendments regarding protection against discrimination in medical treatment and the use of value assessments were especially salient.

You can see the formal official letter she prepared on behalf of the community here: https://www.ohsu.edu/sites/default/files/2023-12/OHSU%20UCEDD%20-%20Full%20504%20Comment%2011-2023%20.pdf.

By updating the legislation, physicians and all entities that receive federal funding can be held accountable to provide equitable services to people with disabilities. The Rehab Act of 1973 was the first federal law to address the civil rights of people with disabilities and was born out of the brave, unwavering activism of this population - a legacy which Quinn and fellow trainees seek to follow through their work with LEND.