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Frequently Asked Questions About Disability Resources at UPMC

Do you know:

  • How to best prepare for an upcoming hospital stay?
  • What types of disability resources we offer at UPMC hospitals?
  • Who to ask if you need accommodations for a disability?

For answers to these and other common questions, see the frequently asked questions about our general disability resources below. You can also see disability-specific FAQ's by looking below the general FAQ's on this page.

If you have any questions that aren't addressed on this page, please contact us.


General FAQ

What should a patient with a disability do when going to a UPMC hospital to make sure their needs are met?

  • Tell hospital staff about any accommodation needs, such as a communication board, interpreter, transfer board, etc.
  • Please mark all personal belongings with your name and contact information in the event that the items are lost or misplaced. Please understand that you are responsible for all personal items brought to the facility.
  • If bringing a service animal, make plans for someone to feed, water, and toilet the animal while you are in the hospital. Service animals are allowed unless the animal is not under control and the owner/handler does not take strong, useful action to control it. All service animals must be housebroken.

Do patients and visitors pay for communication assistance or accommodations?

No. The health care provider or facility provides accommodations free of charge.

When do I ask for communication assistance or an accommodation?

If you require help, ask when scheduling hospital stays or appointments (as well as follow-up appointments):

Hospital Admissions

  • If your hospital visit begins in the emergency department, ask for help when you come to the hospital. If you have a service animal and you have questions, please ask for help at this time as well.
  • If your hospital visit is scheduled, tell the admissions staff (ex: the scheduler or receptionist) and your health care provider ahead of your stay or visit.
  • If you are in the hospital, ask your nurse. If they cannot help you, contact Patient Relations.

Surgical Scheduling

  • Tell your surgeon and the surgery scheduler.

Office Visits

  • Tell the scheduler or receptionist and your health care provider
  • Check with your health care team a few days before your appointment to make sure any needed accommodations have been arranged.

If you are scheduling a visit or stay at a UPMC hospital, you can call the Disabilities Resource Center to learn more about taking part in the Let Us Help You (LUHU) program. Through this patient care coordination program, the Center will work with you and the hospital to pre-schedule communication assistance and accommodations ahead of your stay or visit. 

Call the Center at 412-605-1483 for more information.

What else can I do to make sure I get the help that I need?

Tell the staff right away if you feel that your disability related needs are not being met, and ask for other help.

MyUPMC
MyUPMC is an electronic portal to help you communicate with your doctor’s office and access your medical records through your computer or tablet. 

Who do I ask or go to if I have questions or concerns?

Ask a person on your health care team, such as the:

Make sure you know who you are asking for help. Not all UPMC employees who are wearing medical scrubs or a uniform are the right people to help you.

What if my family member or visitor needs an accommodation related to a disability?

If an accommodation is needed to give equal access to public services or to take part in a health care experience, reasonable accommodations will be given at no cost. These may include a sign language interpreter, help with navigation, large print materials, and so on.

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FAQs by Disability Type

Autism

What types of communication assistance or accommodation are available at UPMC hospitals?

  • Quiet exam room (with dimmed lights)
  • Lower number of staff present during the visit (when applicable)
  • Communication board or other visual aids
  • More time to explain and do exams
  • Allow for videos/music during the visit (when applicable)
  • iPad with communication apps
  • Picture storyboards for certain procedures (X-ray, CT Scan, MRI, Phlebotomy, Stitches)
  • Interpreters

Blind, Low Vision

What types of communication assistance or accommodation are available at UPMC hospitals?

  • Braille text (key Braille documents are available-please check with staff about the translation of other texts into a Braille version)
  • High-contrast, bold pen/markers
  • Assistance with navigation
  • Large print materials(key large print documents are available - please check with staff about the translation of other texts into large print)
  • Magnification devices
  • Signature guides
  • Tactile interpreters for those who are Deaf-Blind

Hearing Loss

What types of communication assistance are available at UPMC hospitals?

  • American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters
  • Oral interpreters
  • Foreign language interpreters
  • Tactile interpreters for those who are Deaf-Blind
  • iPad with video relay service (VRS) and other communication apps
  • Video relay interpreting services (VRI)
  • Teletype (TTY) phones
  • Communication cards/boards
  • Telephone handset amplifiers
  • Assistive listening toolkits (TTY phone, phone signaler, door knocker, personal amplification device, and sound signaler)

Can I use a family member or a friend as an interpreter?

  • Family and friends should not be used as interpreters.
  • Family and friends may be unreliable as interpreters because they tend to be too emotionally involved and may not have the medical training needed to accurately interpret the conversation.
  • Using your family member or friend raises confidentiality and HIPAA concerns.
  • A better choice would be to have your family member or friend there for the conversation with a qualified interpreter. Interpretation is provided to patients at no cost.

What else can I do to make sure I get the help that I need?

Accommodation Card - If you have hearing loss, make a HealthBridges Accommodation Card by clicking here. Complete and print the card so you can give it to your health care team in case you can’t communicate due to your medical issue.

Can I bring my assistive technology device or service animal to the hospital with me?

  • Yes. Put your name and contact information on your assistive devices. You are responsible for these items and assume all risk connected to them.
  • Service animals are allowed unless the animal is not under control and the owner/handler does not take strong, useful action to control it. All service animals must be housebroken.
  • If bringing a service animal, arrange for someone to feed, water, and toilet the animal during your stay

How can I stop getting automated appointment reminders by phone?

Tell the front desk staff if you do not want to get automated messages from AudioCare. MyUPMC is a great way to communicate with your doctor’s office about appointments, prescriptions, and test results.

Intellectual Disabilities

What types of communication assistance or accommodations are available at UPMC hospitals?

  • Quiet exam room (with dimmed lights)
  • Lower number of staff present during the visit (when applicable)
  • Communication board or other visual aids
  • More time to explain and conduct exams
  • Allow for videos/music during the visit (when applicable)
  • iPad with communication apps
  • Providing detailed instructions (orally and/or in writing)
  • Providing reminder cards and/or reminder calls (for next appointment)
  • Storyboards for certain procedures (X-Ray, CT Scan, MRI, Phlebotomy, Stitches)
  • Interpreters

Mobility Disabilities

What types of accommodations are available at UPMC hospitals?

  • Accessible exam/treatment/inpatient rooms
  • Assistance with self-care tasks such as eating, bathing, and toileting
  • Assistance with patient transfer
  • Accessible parking and accessible restrooms
  • Accessible medical equipment, including:
    • Beds
    • Mechanical lifts/transfer boards
    • Accessible call bells
    • Wheelchair scale
    • Pressure relief mattress
    • Positioning trapeze

Service Animals

UPMC is committed to giving the best care possible to patients who have a service animal, making sure that all patients, visitors, and guests have equal access to health care.

Can I bring my service animal to the hospital with me?

Yes. Service animals are allowed in the hospital unless the animal is not under control and the owner/handler does not take strong, useful action to control it. All service animals must be housebroken.

Can my service animal accompany me in all areas of the hospital?

Yes. Service animals are allowed anywhere the general public is allowed. However, this does not apply to sterile settings such as a Burn Unit, Operating Room or Intensive Care Unit.

Will hospital staff help to care for my service animal?

No. If you are unable to care for the animal yourself, you must choose another person to feed, water, and toilet the animal during your stay. Staff are not responsible.

What if I am unable to care for my service animal and cannot choose another person to do so?

If there is nobody to care for the animal, the animal will have to be taken home or temporarily placed in a kennel. If taken to a kennel, it is at owner’s expense.

Are there any other reasons I may not be able to have my service animal at the hospital?

Yes. If the service animal is aggressive, growling or otherwise not under control of its owner/handler, it will not be permitted to stay. It will also not be permitted to stay if it is not housebroken.

Will staff ask me questions about my service animal?

Yes. Staff will need to verify that your animal is needed because of your disability and will need to know what tasks it has been trained to perform for you.

Does my service animal have to be on a leash or harness?

Yes. Exceptions can be made if leash/harness interferes with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents the use of those devices. In these cases, animal must be controlled through voice, signal or other effective controls.

Who is permitted to bring a service animal to the hospital?

Both patients and visitors with disabilities are permitted to bring their service animals to the hospital.

Speech Impairments

What types of communication assistance or accommodation are available at UPMC hospitals?

  • Communication boards
  • Interpreters
  • iPad with communication apps
  • Pen and paper/dry erase boards

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Contact the Center

UPMC Disabilities Resource Center
Forbes Tower
Suite 10072
3600 Forbes at Meyran Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Phone: 412-605-1483
Fax: 412-647-3222

Email the Disabilities Resource Center

Hours: Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

More Disability Resources

Downloadable FAQ Resources by Disability Type

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