Blind Patients Receive Settlement from UNC Health Care System
National Federation of the Blind and Disability Rights North Carolina Also Parties
Raleigh, North Carolina (July 14, 2022): UNC Health Care System (“UNC Health”) will pay $125,000 in damages and admit to violating federal disability rights laws to settle legal claims by blind patients that UNC Health does not provide written materials in Braille, large print, or other accessible formats.
Timothy Miles, John Bone, the National Federation of the Blind, and Disability Rights NC alleged that UNC Health Care System systematically discriminates against blind people by failing to provide them written information in formats they can access, such as large print, Braille, and accessible electronic formats, that enable them to participate fully in their care and make timely payments on their medical bills. Timothy Miles, a long-time patient of UNC Health, repeatedly asked for large print formats of patient history forms, after-visit summaries, billing information, and other written communications from UNC Health but continued to receive them in standard print. After John Bone received emergency medical care at Nash General Hospital, an affiliate of UNC Health, he received bills and other communications about his care in standard print. Mr. Bone repeatedly asked to be provided the information in Braille but did not receive it in a timely manner.
The settlement follows a magistrate judge recommendation that UNC Health be held liable for violating federal disability rights laws for its failures to ensure equally effective communication with blind patients. Following the settlement, litigation will continue to determine the policy changes UNC Health will be required to implement to ensure future compliance with federal disability rights laws requiring healthcare providers like UNC Health to communicate as effectively with blind patients as it does with patients 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. “We believe this settlement sends a strong message that medical providers must take this legal and moral obligation seriously. The National Federation of the Blind, relying on the extensive expertise and lived experiences of our members as well as our decades of work on these issues, is happy to collaborate with healthcare entities who want guidance in providing medical information in accessible formats.”
“Navigating the healthcare system is already challenging. Denying blind patients equal access to information about their healthcare 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, Chief Executive Officer of Disability Rights NC. “We are thankful for strong advocates, such as Mr. Miles and Mr. Bone, who are willing to challenge the status quo and stand up for their right and the right of all blind patients in North Carolina to be equal participants in their healthcare.”