Following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR), St. Edward Mercy Medical Center (Mercy), in Fort Smith, Arkansas has agreed to make changes to its policies and procedures to comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504).
The settlement resulted from a complaint filed with OCR by a person with a lumbar and spinal disability who requires a service animal to assist him in a number of daily functions, including carrying and picking up items and helping to stabilize his walking. While the complainant sought emergency medical treatment for his father, Mercy refused to allow the service animal to accompany the complainant into the hospital. The complainant was told his service animal was not a “seeing eye dog” and the animal would need to be removed from the hospital because he could not show vaccination records or tags verifying the health of the animal. After an investigation, OCR found that Mercy’s policies and procedures regarding access to service animals inappropriately excluded service animals already being used by qualified individuals with disabilities other than vision impairment. Read More