FAQs: Medical and other professional services
- Can physicians and dentists refuse to provide service to someone because they have AIDS or Hepatitis C?
No. The Alberta Human Rights Act requires that physicians and dentists not discriminate in the provision of services customarily available to the public. As such, physicians and dentists cannot refuse to provide services to someone because they have AIDS or Hepatitis C.
- Can professionals require clients to pay in advance under the AHR Act?
Professional service providers can require clients to pay in advance as long as that requirement is not based on a protected ground under the AHR Act. A requirement that only people of colour pay in advance would be a violation of the AHR Act.
- What can a client do if a professional service provider sexually harasses them?
The client can bring a complaint to the appropriate self-governing professional body. The client can also make a human rights complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission under the AHR Act.
- Where can a person go with general complaints about medical or professional services?
The self-governing professional bodies are mandated to deal with complaints from clients and the public about the practice of individual members. These organizations have neutral complaint resolution mechanisms, and guarantee impartiality.
- Can a medical or professional service provider refuse to provide service to someone because they receive provincial income assistance?
No. Lawful source of income is a protected ground under the AHR Act, and it is discrimination to refuse service to someone because they receive income assistance.
- Do clinics and professional offices have to be wheelchair accessible?
Medical and professional service providers have a duty to accommodate patients and clients with disabilities, to the point of undue hardship. This means that their facilities must be accessible, unless making them accessible would cause undue hardship, such as unbearable financial cost or inconvenience. In practical situations, this may mean that a large professional office may need to be accessible, while a one-person professional business run from a home may not. For more information about the duty to accommodate and undue hardship, see the Commission interpretive bulletin Duty to accommodate.
- Do clinics and other professional services have to provide assistive services for people with visual or auditory disabilities?
A service provider's duty to accommodate applies to any form of disability. While providing interpreters or other assistive services on demand might amount to undue hardship, service providers can look for other ways to provide accommodation. For example, it might be possible, without undue hardship, to make American Sign Language interpretation available for a specific number of hours per week, to arrange for an interpreter on call, or to make arrangements to refer patients or clients to other service providers where such assistance is available.
- Do clinics or other professional service providers have to allow guide dogs or other service animals on their premises?
Yes, under human rights law, the service provider has the duty to accommodate a patient or client who requires a guide dog or other service animal because of a disability. It might not be possible to allow service animals to accompany their owners to all medical procedures if it would cause undue hardship. Also note that the Alberta Blind Person's Rights Act also allows guide dogs in any public service facility. For more information about the duty to accommodate and undue hardship, see the Commission interpretive bulletin Duty to accommodate.
- Do professional service providers have to offer language interpretation?
In serving clients who do not speak the language customarily offered in a professional service provider's business, the service provider must provide options for bridging the language gap. For example, clients can bring a friend or family member who can assist or they can seek help from a cultural or immigrant services organization. Alternatively, the service provider can refer clients to other service providers who speak the client's language. If no other reasonable alternative is workable, the service provider must provide language interpretation services unless it would cause undue hardship for the service provider.
Revised: February 4, 2010
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