Behavior Analysis in Practice

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 879–886 | Cite as

The Diversity Is in the Details: Unintentional Language Discrimination in the Practice of Applied Behavior Analysis

  • Julie KornackEmail author
  • Ariana Cernius
  • Angela Persicke
Special Section: Diversity and Inclusion


Individuals with limited English proficiency face more challenges accessing applied behavior analysis (ABA) than their English-speaking counterparts. Many federal and state laws have been enacted to ensure the civil rights of protected classes, and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, 2010) builds on those laws and explicitly establishes a cause of action (i.e., a basis to sue) against health care providers, including ABA providers, who discriminate against patients on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. A patient’s language falls under the scope of national origin, and most health care providers, including behavior analysts who deliver ABA as medically necessary treatment, have a duty to ensure that patients who are Limited English Proficient (LEP) have the same access to the provider’s services as English-speaking patients. Knowledge of this provision of the ACA is critical to its compliance and, more importantly, to ensuring that behavior analysts rise to the challenge that the goal of true diversity represents. Note: Many terms are used interchangeably to describe insurance carriers, insurance issuers, health plans, and managed care organizations, as well as practitioners of applied behavior analysis. In this article, insurance carriers, insurance issuers, health plans, and managed care organizations are referred to as payors, and practitioners of applied behavior analysis are referred to as behavior analysts or ABA providers.


Applied behavior analysis, ABA Autism, ASD Affordable Care Act, ACA Obamacare, Section 1557, diversity, interpreter, health care, discrimination LEP, Limited English Proficient 



No funding was received for this study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Julie Kornack declares that she has no conflict of interest. Ariana Cernius declares that she has no conflict of interest. Angela Persicke declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Autism and Related DisordersWoodland HillsUSA
  2. 2.Bet Tzedek Legal ServicesLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Pepperdine UniversityMalibuUSA

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