Tech Notes – Medical Diagnostic Equipment and Accessibility

By Victoria Lanteigne, Senior Accessibility Consultant

The United States Access Board recently issued new standards under Section 510 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 for Medical Diagnostic Equipment (MDE). The Proposed Standards provide design criteria for MDE such as examination tables and chairs, scales, radiology equipment, mammography equipment, among other medical equipment. The new accessibility requirements, “establish minimum technical criteria that will allow patients with disabilities independent entry to, use of, and exit from medical diagnostic equipment to the maximum extent possible.”

The Proposed Standards provide technical criteria that will facilitate the use of equipment for people with disabilities in the supine, prone, side-lying, and seated positions. A few key requirements from the Proposed Standard are following:

  • For diagnostic equipment to be usable with portable patient lifts, the base of the equipment shall provide a minimum clearance of 44 inches wide, 6 inches high and 36 inches deep, measured from the edge of the examination surface. Where the width of the examination surface is less than 36 inches, the clearance depth shall extend the full width of the equipment.
  • Equipment that supports a patient in the supine, prone, side-lying, or seated positions is required to be adjustable from a low transfer height of 17-19 inches AFF to a high transfer height of 25 inches AFF, with at least 4 additional transfer positions between the low and high transfer positions, separated by increments of one inch (see image).
  • The transfer surface for equipment used by patients in the seated position shall be at least 21 inches wide and 15 inches deep.
  • Transfer supports and their connections shall be capable of resisting vertical and horizontal forces of 250 pounds applied at all points on the transfer support.
  • Where instructions or other information is necessary for performance of a diagnostic procedure, or when information is communicated to a patient through the diagnostic equipment, such as auditory exams, the instructions and other information must be provided in at least two of the following methods: audible, visible, tactile.

Currently, these standards are not enforceable as they have not been adopted by an enforcing authority; however, it will only be a matter of time now that the standards are finalized.

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