UNC Health Care System set to pay $125K in damages for violating federal disability rights law

RALEIGH, N.C. — The UNC Health Care System will pay $125,000 in damages and admit to violating federal disability rights laws in order to settle legal claims by blind patients that UNC Health does not provide written materials in Braille, large print, or electronic formats that are more accessible.

The National Federation of the Blind, Disability Rights North Carolina, as well as patients Timothy Miles and John Bone, allege that the UNC Health Care System systematically discriminates against blind patients by failing to provide them with written information in formats they can access.

Miles, a longtime patient of UNC Health, said he repeatedly asked for large print formats of patient history forms, after-visit summaries, billing information, and other written communication but continued to receive them in standard print.

Bone, another patient, received emergency care at Nash General Hospital, an affiliate of UNC Health, where he received bills and other communications about his care in standard print after repeatedly asking for the information in Braille. He also said that he never received this information in a timely manner.

The settlement came after a magistrate judge recommended that UNC Health be held liable for violating federal disability rights laws for not providing effective communication to blind patients.

Following the settlement, the lawsuit will continue to determine the policy changes to make sure UNC Health complies with the federal disability rights laws requiring health care providers to communicate as effectively with blind patients as it does with those without disabilities.

“With today’s technology, providing bills, medical records, and treatment instructions in alternative formats, such as Braille and large print, is readily achievable,” said Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind.

Riccobono said the National Federation of the Blind is happy to collaborate with health care providers who want guidance in providing medical information in accessible formats.

“Navigating the health care system is already challenging. Denying blind patients equal access to information about their health care by failing to put the information in formats accessible to them not only violates the law, it impermissibly endangers their health,” said Virginia Knowlton Marcus, CEO of Disability Rights North Carolina.

(WATCH BELOW: Atrium Health suspends plan to merge with UNC Health Care)

Comments on this article