The Unexamined Diversity: Disability Policies and Practices in US Graduate Medical Education Programs

J Grad Med Educ. 2020 Oct;12(5):615-619. doi: 10.4300/JGME-D-19-00940.1.


Background: Graduate medical education (GME) institutions must ensure equal access for trainees with disabilities through appropriate and reasonable accommodations and policies. To date, no comprehensive review of the availability and inclusiveness of GME policies for residents with disabilities exists.

Objective: We examined institutions' compliance with Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) requirements and alignment with Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) policy considerations.

Methods: Between June and August 2019, we conducted a directed content analysis of GME institutional policies using the AAMC report on disability considerations and the ACGME institutional requirements as a framework.

Results: Of the 47 GME handbooks available for review, 32 (68%) included a disability policy. Forty-one of the 47 (87%) handbooks maintained a nondiscrimination statement that included disability. Twelve of the 32 (38%) handbooks included a specific disability policy and language that encouraged disclosure, and 17 (53%) included a statement about the confidential documentation used to determine reasonable accommodations. Nineteen of the 32 (59%) maintained a clear procedure for disclosing disabilities and requesting accommodations.

Conclusions: While disability policies are present in many of the largest GME institutions, it is not yet a standardized practice. For institutions maintaining a disability policy, many lack key elements identified as best practices in the AAMC considerations.