Expanding Accessibility to Quality Care


By Tracy Timmerman, Senior Marketing Manager


Over the last few decades, the healthcare community has made great strides to increase accessibility to quality care, providing the same access for patients with mobility limitations as for those without such limitations. However, there is still work to be done.

Equal access to care can be difficult to define, especially when you focus on the exam room. In an effort to help define accessibility in the exam room, a provision contained in the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) required the U.S. Access Board, in consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to issue medical diagnostic equipment (MDE) standards to accommodate adults with disabilities. Examination chairs are vital MDE and are often inaccessible for patients with mobility limitations.


The U.S. Access Board released a set of proposed provisions in 2010 and established an MDE Advisory Committee, consisting of representatives from interest groups that would be affected, to review the provisions and assist in developing guidelines. Midmark was an active member of the MDE Advisory Committee and was a leader in the creation of the recommendations that the committee delivered to the U.S. Access Board in December 2013.

After much review and discussion, the U.S. Access Board defined these accessibility standards in 2017, which include elements such as the low seat height, transfer surface and support arms of an exam chair. However, these standards remain voluntary. They are not enforceable until they are adopted by an enforcing authority through regulation, such as the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights (HHS OCR).

As a result, accessibility in the exam room is still a challenge today, 22 years after the passage of the ACA. Most recently, the National Council on Disability (NCD) submitted a report to President Biden in May 2021 recommending that the MDE Standards be enforced. 


Midmark emphatically agrees with the NCD position that patients with mobility limitations should have full and equal access to the diagnostic services that can maximize their health, well-being and quality of life. We are committed to helping physicians and caregivers rethink traditional workflows by bringing care directly to the patient and minimizing accessibility issues. We believe that one of the best ways to help enhance accessibility to care in the exam room is to rethink caregiver-patient interaction and implement patient-centered design approaches.


The “same access of healthcare” can refer to a number of design considerations, including:

  1. Low-height exam chairs, such as the Barrier-Freeâ Examination Chairs from Midmark, that meet the MDE standards.
  2. Patient support rails that are designed to provide patients with security and support throughout the examination process.
  3. Exam chairs with a transfer surface that meets the MDE standards.
  4. Mobile workstations that help create a more accessible, patient-centered experience.
  5. An exam room size and layout that accommodates patient mobility limitations (e.g., wheelchair, walker, etc.) and provides improved accessibility.
  6. A fully accessible facility design that can be navigated easily by everyone, including those patients limited in mobility.
  7. Staff trained to understand and respond with sensitivity to people with different types of disabilities or mobility limitations.


For more information on designing for accessibility, visit https://www.midmark.com/medical.