Good News on Hospital Visitor Policies!
Disabled people have been facing discriminatory “no visitor” policies in hospitals across the country. These policies are in place to keep people safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they have prevented people from receiving critical support and assistance from family members, friends, support workers, or others. Accommodations to these policies are required by law, but states and hospitals across the country have been refusing to make such accommodations and abide by the law.
The first federal complaint (PDF) challenging these policies was filed in Connecticut by Independence Northwest: Center for Independent Living of Northwest CT, Disability Rights Connecticut, CommunicationFIRST, the Arc of Connecticut, Center for Public Representation, and the Arc of the US. Last week, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a resolution.
The resolution is a huge win, and while it is specific to Connecticut’s policies, its implications are nationwide! The resolution makes clear that no-visitor policies are a violation of federal law, and that the law requires states to modify policies and practices to ensure people can access the supports they need while hospitalized. As part of the resolution, Connecticut issued an executive order (PDF) which, among other things, established a policy requiring hospitals to permit entrance of a designated support person into hospitals and permitting family members or others to serve as a designated support person.
This resolution sends an important message to other states that still have no-visitor policies in place that such policies are illegal and must be modified. And importantly, it affirms that disabled people are still entitled to reasonable accommodations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Green Mountain Self Advocates and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) have produced a video and guide (PDF) called “Know Your Rights: People with Disabilities Can Have a Supporter in the Hospital during COVID-19”.
The Center for Public Representation has a web page dedicated to this issue, including advocacy tools, resources, and a list of which states currently provide exceptions to “no visitor” policies for disabled people.