Technical Standards in Health Education

Technical standards in health education are guidelines that outline the knowledge, skills, and best practices healthcare professionals need to learn during their training. They often are the basis for curriculum development, program accreditation, competency evaluation, and the delivery of safe and effective patient care. Technical standards can apply to admission, classes, rotations, and graduation.

It is important to note that technical standards in healthcare education should not discriminate against any individual or group, including deaf students. Discrimination based on disability is prohibited by laws and regulations, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A number of court cases have addressed technical standards, including Featherstone vs. Pacific Northwest, University of Health Sciences and Argenyi vs. Creighton University.

In each of these cases, the courts ruled that colleges or universities cannot refuse admission to a program based solely on an individual’s disability, and they cannot refuse to provide accommodations based on the wording of a technical standard.

"73% of medical schools used discriminatory language in their technical standards, and only 13% included mention of accommodating students with disabilities."

Technical standards should avoid discriminatory language. For example, instead of “has normal or corrected hearing ability within the 0-45 decibel range. Examples: Hears alarms, emergency signals, cries for help, auscultatory sounds.” Consider using this option: “The student must have the ability to communicate effectively and sensitively with other students, faculty, staff, patients, family and other professionals.


If the technical standards appear to discriminate against a student with a disability, here’s how you can take action:

Short-term Solutions

Long-term Solutions

Review technical standards with the students and identify accommodations that are needed

With the input of people with disabilities, review and modernize technical standards to ensure language is outcome-oriented and inclusive.

Provide a range of accommodation options including ones the student may have not experienced before

Invite a professional to explore opportunities to proactively embed universal accessible practices throughout the program

Facilitate a meeting between the program coordinator and student

Ensure all technical standards documents are easily accessible and available to the public, including current and future potential learners.

For additional questions or support with understanding healthcare technical standards and accommodations contact [email protected].

Need Help?

Fill out this form to get help from the NDC team.  Can’t see the form below? Click here to contact the NDC team.