Pacific Update, Summer 2012

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Development of Accessible Prescription Drug Labels Underway

The U.S. Access Board will lead an effort to develop guidance on making prescription drug labels accessible to people with vision impairments under an act signed into law by President Obama in July 2012. bottle of pillsThe "Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act" includes measures to promote drug safety and to improve FDA procedures for reviewing new medicines and medical devices.

A provision of the act authorizes the Board to convene a stakeholder working group to develop best practices for making information on prescription drug container labels accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. This group, which will include equal representation from advocacy organizations and from industry, will develop best practices for pharmacies on providing independent access to prescription drug container labels. The working group will explore various alternatives, including Braille, large print labels, and various auditory technologies such as "talking bottles" and radio frequency identification tags. The group’s recommendations, which are to be developed within one year, will be advisory only, not mandatory, and will not have the force of guidelines or standards.

For further information, contact Marsha Mazz at, (202) 272-0020 (v), or (202) 272-0076 (TTY).

Development of Accessible Prescription Drug Labels

Emergency Transportable Housing Unit Accessibility

The Access Board has released proposed accessibility guidelines for temporary housing provided by the government in emergencies and natural disasters. The proposed guidelines would supplement the Board's Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Guidelines, which cover many types of facilities, including dwelling units, by adding provisions that specifically address emergency transportable housing. It would also supplement companion guidelines the Board maintains under the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA), which applies to federally funded facilities.

For ADA training and technical assistance:

1-800-949-4232 (Voice/TTY), email

Emergency transportable housing units, which are designed and manufactured for transport over roadways, have a smaller footprint than other types of housing and pose unique accessibility challenges. Access to such housing was found to be problematic in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The proposed rule would revise certain provisions in the ADA and ABA guidelines to address these types of units, including requirements for ramps, floor surfaces, kitchens, showers, and bedrooms. The proposal would require additional features, such as folding seats in roll-in showers, to improve accessibility. Some changes are responsive to design constraints and would provide exceptions from certain technical criteria for elements such as entry ramps under certain conditions. Accessible communication features, including smoke alarms and weather alert systems, are also addressed.

The proposed changes are based on consensus recommendations prepared by an advisory panel organized by the Board, the Emergency Transportable Housing Advisory Committee. This committee included representatives from disability groups, industry and code groups, and government agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Emergency Transportable Housing Units

Medical Diagnostic Equipment to Have Accessibility Standards

On June 8, the four-month comment period closed on the Access Board's proposed standards for medical diagnostic equipment. These standards provide design criteria for accessible examination tables and chairs, weight scales, mammography equipment, and other equipment used for diagnostic purposes. In response to its proposed rule, the Board received almost 60 comments from the public which can be viewed at

The Board is organizing an advisory committee of stakeholders to develop consensus recommendations on how the standards should be finalized based on a review of the public comments. Committee members will include representatives from disability groups, equipment manufacturers, health care providers, and standard-setting organizations. The Board requested applications for committee membership through a notice issued in March and will announce the committee's formation in coming weeks. The committee is expected to hold its first meeting in September. Committee meetings and deliberations will be open to the public and will be conducted in accordance with regulations governing Federal advisory committees.

Those interested in this rulemaking or the work of the advisory committee can sign up to receive email updates. For further information, visit the Board's website or contact Rex Pace at, (202) 272-0023 (v), or (202) 272-0052 (TTY).

Medical Diagnostic Equipment


ADA Amendments Act Clarifies Definition of Disability

The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) was enacted on September 25, 2008, and became effective on January 1, 2009. The law made a number of significant changes to the definition of "disability" under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It also directed the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to amend its ADA regulations to reflect the changes made by the ADAAA. The final regulations were approved by a bipartisan vote and were published in the Federal Register on March 25, 2011.

In enacting the ADAAA, Congress made it easier for an individual seeking protection under the ADA to establish that he or she has a disability within the meaning of the statute. Congress overturned several Supreme Court decisions that Congress believed had interpreted the definition of "disability" too narrowly, resulting in a denial of protection for many individuals with impairments such as cancer, diabetes, and epilepsy. The ADAAA states that the definition of disability should be interpreted in favor of broad coverage of individuals.

The EEOC regulations implement the ADAAA -- in particular, the mandate from Congress that the definition of disability be construed broadly. Following the ADAAA, the regulations keep the ADA’s definition of the term "disability" as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; a record (or past history) of such an impairment; or being regarded as having a disability. But the regulations implement the significant changes that Congress made regarding how those terms should be interpreted.

The regulations implement the congressional intent to set forth predictable, consistent, and workable standards by adopting "rules of construction" to use when determining if an individual is substantially limited in performing a major life activity.

Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act

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