I have been teaching a BMET program since the fall of 1992 and after 25 years of teaching I still consider myself a Biomed Tech or BMET. So just about anything I learn in my career as an educator I’m always relating it back to my background as a Biomed Tech. The first day back to school after the holiday break this year was a training session held by a Washington lawyer with the Department of Education. This training was about websites and distance learning and some of the federal regulations which must be adhered to for compliance with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). I’m sure I knew the OCR was a part of the Department of Education but for the life of me I could not remember that. But, it’s true, the Office of Civil Rights is under the Department of Education. It’s apparent once you read the OCR’s mission statement which reads: OCR’s mission is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence through vigorous enforcement of civil rights in our nation’s schools.
Many reading this may have much experience in dealing with federal codes and standards. The reason may stem from another mission statement from a federal department. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) mission statement is to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans. We fulfill that mission by providing for effective health and human services and fostering advances in medicine, public health, and social services. I must say when you read this mission statement it’s hard to not agree with what it says. It seems easy enough to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans. However, we all know in the HTM field that fulfilling this mission statement is very difficult. Exactly how do you enhance and protect the health of all Americans? It starts with ensuring the equipment is safe, reliable, and accurate. Of course, we all know that as we strive to fulfill these statements it seems to get increasingly difficult.
As I sat in my training session I began to think about how difficult it was going to be to implement all the requirements I was listening to. I began to think about something Ode Kiel once told me about Joint Commission regulations, “Say what you do and do what you say.” Sounds simple until you must implement this into the workings of a large organization such as a health care facility or an institute of higher learning.
Like many regulations, the first reaction is “This is crazy, why do I have to do this?” I have been teaching online classes for many years and find many resources to use in the classroom including different YouTube videos. However, our presenter shared with all in attendance that all websites should be designed to be accessible to individuals with disabilities. So, what did this mean to me? All YouTube videos must be captioned to be used in the course. I must caption the videos or take them down because a disabled student could file a discrimination case. Many of the educators in the room felt this did not apply to them because they did not have a disabled student in their class. Our presenter quickly noted that all websites should be designed to be accessible to individuals with disabilities. Some of the instructors had very reasonable arguments to some of these regulations, including an instructor from the speech language pathology program. The videos must be captioned so students with partial or complete hearing loss can understand what the video is talking about. The instructors were insistent that a student with hearing loss could not progress in the program because you must be able to hear the sounds a patient/client is making to help them with their language skills. The presenter said it’s OK for the student not to progress because of a disability; however having disability accessible websites is still a law we must abide by.
I kind of stewed about this for a day or two as I’ve never known a BMET to be blind or deaf. But, after a few days thinking about it I did come to realize that a blind person could make a great technician as a phone support personnel. Yes, certain accommodations would have to be implemented such as brail schematics etc. but one could possibly perform as a BMET in a little different role than a BMET in the hospital environment. We may see government regulations as nothing but a hindrance but they are actually in place for good reasons. So, the next time you encounter a regulation or a rule that doesn’t make sense to you, step back and take a look from a different angle.
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