Civil Rights: What You Can Do About Discrimination

Oregon Patients' Rights Association advocates want to help you understand, and stand up for, YOUR civil rights as a health care recipient. 

What Are Civil Rights?

Civil Rights help to protect you from unfair treatment or discrimination, because of your race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex (gender), or religion.

Here are some example scenarios of discrimination occurring based on disability:

  • You tell the folks at the laboratory that you cannot read well enough to fill out a patient information sheet and ask for help. Staff are too busy to help and tell you to just sign the form saying, "Nobody reads the form anyway." This example shows that you have been discriminated against based on your inability to read well. 
A lot of people mistakenly think they are not disabled because they have not applied for, or been labeled "disabled" by the Social Security Administration., or any other entity. Many people cannot do what most folks often take for granted, such as being able to read and/or write, walk 50-feet across a parking lot or around a the inside of a store to shop for groceries, or understand instructions, or directions, when they are spoken (given verbally.) Folks who cannot do these types of things without great difficulty, or cannot do these types of things at all, are disabled.

  • You are in the waiting room of your clinic or doctor's office and you witness a staff person make inappropriate comments to a co-worker, or even just laugh, about  (or at,) another patient who is handicapped. It may have been the patient who was just  called to the back examination area, who, while in the lobby, had been shaking their arms oddly, or twitching their leg uncontrollably, or mumbling a repetitive phrase, or had trouble maneuvering their wheelchair through the doorway and had bumped into the wall. Seeing this incident happen to somebody else may give you the notion that staff might also laugh at you, or not take you seriously, if you asked for some kind of help because of your own disability. And so, you don't ask for the help you need.
This example shows how YOU are affected by the unfair incident you witnessed, and it reinforces the need some disabled folks have to hide their handicap, because of the FEAR of discrimination, or not being taken seriously when asking for help you need. 

A lot of disabilities are not ones you can see, such as dyslexia, which may prevent you from reading a map. Some other disability might prevent someone from being able to read the signs to make their way to the xray department at a medical center. 

Civil Rights protect you from discrimination in health care and social service programs. Some of these programs are:

  • Hospitals, health clinics, nursing homes
  • Medicaid and Medicare agencies
  • Welfare programs
  • Day care centers
  • Doctors’ offices and pharmacies
  • Children’s health programs
  • Alcohol and drug treatment centers
  • Adoption agencies
  • Mental health and developmental disabilities agencies

At the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) promotes and ensures that people have equal access to and opportunity to participate in certain health care and human services programs without facing unlawful discrimination in programs and activities that receive financial assistance from HHS.  The office of the Civil Rights Division (CRD) also enforces a Federal law and regulation that prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in health care and social service programs of state and local governments.

(**this page is currently under construction, therefore contains incomplete information, which will be completed shortly. Some of the information to be provided will be instructions on how to file a civil rights complaint. Thank you for your patience and please do check back in a day or two to see added information.)

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