Accommodating disabled patients

October 20, 2006

The second-floor office where I'd like to set up my internal medicine practice is not accessible to patients in wheelchairs. However, if I need to see any wheelchair-bound patients, another physician in the building has offered to let me use his office downstairs. Would this arrangement satisfy ADA regulations? Also, what changes will I have to make to the restrooms to accommodate handicapped patients?

Q:The second-floor office where I'd like to set up my internal medicine practice is not accessible to patients in wheelchairs. However, if I need to see any wheelchair-bound patients, another physician in the building has offered to let me use his office downstairs. Would this arrangement satisfy ADA regulations? Also, what changes will I have to make to the restrooms to accommodate handicapped patients?

A: Such an arrangement probably would not comply with ADA regulations-unless you have unlimited use of your colleague's office during your regularly scheduled hours. It would be discriminatory to restrict your wheelchair-bound patients' visits to certain days or times when the downstairs office was available to you.

Restrooms should be both accessible and usable. For example, this may require widening a doorway so a wheelchair could pass through, lowering a sink, or fixing a grab bar to the wall next to a toilet. However, under the ADA, you're required to make only "readily achievable" modifications. That means the modifications can be easily accomplished without much difficulty or excessive expense that could harm your business. For more information, see the ADA Guide for Small Businesses, available at ada.gov/smbusgd.pdf. Be sure to ask your attorney how these rules apply to your specific situation.