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Effective Communication in Hospitals - Disability

Enforcement Success Stories Involving Persons who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Summary of Selected Complaint Investigations and Resolution Agreements

  • St. Francis Health Center SFHC (KS) - OCR Region VII resolved a complaint alleging that SFHC violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, by failing to provide a sign language interpreter for a deaf patient admitted to the hospital for surgery.  In response to OCR’s investigation and provision of technical assistance, SFHC took voluntary corrective action to improve its auxiliary aids and services program, including:  (1) revising its Language and Hearing Impaired Services policy to ensure that patients will be notified in writing of their right to an interpreter and other auxiliary aids and services at the time of their admission and/or first appointment; (2) training staff in the revised policy; (3) implementing a video remote system that provides language interpretation services, including American Sign Language; and (4) adopting a new Notice and Waiver Form ensuring patients will be provided necessary interpretation services, unless the patient specifically “opts out” and provides his or her own interpreter. 

  • Ramapo Manor Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing (Ramapo) - OCR secured a Settlement Agreement with Ramapo that ensures that individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing will be provided equal access to its facility and will be provided interpreter services when necessary for effective communication.  Ramapo is a 203-bed nursing facility that cares for long-term chronically ill patients and short-term post acute rehabilitative patients in Suffern, New York. The Agreement resolves a Violation Letter of Findings that OCR had issued under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by recipients of Federal financial assistance. Read the Settlement Agreement | Read the Letter of Findings | Read the HHS Press Release [Spanish | ] -7/12/10

  • Orthopedic Institute of Pennsylvania (OIP) - OCR secured a Settlement Agreement to ensure all deaf and hard-of-hearing patients are provided sign language interpreters and other auxiliary aids when needed for effective communication, as required by Federal law. OIP is an orthopedic surgical practice with 127 staff in six offices. The Agreement resolves OCR’s investigation of a disability compliant filed by a deaf individual denied a sign language interpreter when he called to schedule a medical appointment, in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Under the Agreement, OIP will consult with all deaf or hard-of-hearing patients to determine which appropriate auxiliary aids and services are needed to ensure effective communication. Read the Settlement AgreementRead the Letter of FindingRead the HHS Press Release  [Spanish | PDF]

  • University of Utah Hospitals (UUHC) - OCR secured a signed Resolution Agreement to ensure that UUHC patients with hearing, vision or speech disabilities will be screened and provided with auxiliary aids and services, including sign language interpreters.  The UUHC healthcare system, located in Salt Lake, Davis, Wasatch, Tooele, and Utah Counties, provides care for residents of Utah and five surrounding states, serving more than 850,000 patients annually.  This Agreement resolves an OCR Region VIII compliance review, which identified areas of improvement needed to ensure that qualified individuals with disabilities receive equal access to UUHC programs and services.  To resolve the matter, the UUHC healthcare system agreed to: (1) affirm its compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794; (2) issue and post policies to ensure that appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including sign language interpreters or video interpretation services, are provided to patients with hearing, vision or speech impairments within a two hour time period; (3) establish and post nondiscrimination policies and Section 504 grievance procedures; (4) train physicians, employees and contractors on procedures to ensure effective communication; (5) place TTY lines throughout its facilities; (6) issue customer service questionnaires to patients with disabilities; and (7) provide comprehensive compliance reports to OCR. Read the Resolution AgreementRead the HHS Press Release [Spanish | PDF]

  • Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) - OCR secured a statewide Settlement Agreement with Florida to provide effective communication as required by Federal law to an estimated 3 million deaf and hard-of-hearing persons.  OCR’s investigation found that the State violated Federal non-discrimination laws when it failed to provide interpreters to deaf persons in critical situations, such as during child protective services investigations, and during treatment in State mental health hospitals and treatment facilities.  Under the Agreement, all deaf and hard-of-hearing persons using DCF's programs and services will be provided with sign language interpreters or other auxiliary aids and services as necessary for effective communication.   Read the Settlement Agreement   Read the Summary of the Settlement Agreement   Read the Letter of Findings   Read the HHS Press Release  (Spanish - PDF)

  • Scottsdale Healthcare – Osborn (SHO) - OCR secured a signed Resolution Agreement that resolves a disability discrimination complaint against SHO, a 337-bed hospital and trauma center, serving 150,000 patients each year in Scottsdale, Arizona. The complainant, who has severe hearing loss, reported that she was denied a sign language interpreter when treated in the SHO emergency room and intensive care unit. After receiving her complaint, OCR's Region IX office conducted an investigation. To resolve the matter, SHO agreed to: (1) affirm its compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794; (2) issue and post revised policies to ensure that appropriate auxiliary aids, including sign language interpreters or video interpretation services, are provided to deaf or hard-of-hearing patients or companions within a two hour time period; (3) develop procedures to assess the sign language interpreter needs of patients or companions; (4) train hospital personnel and physicians on its revised policies and procedures to ensure effective communication; (5) place TTY lines throughout its facility; (6) maintain a centralized telecommunication number 24-hours per day, 7-days per week for sign language interpreter requests; and (7) provide regular compliance reports to OCR. Read the SHO Resolution Agreement

  • Catskill Regional Medical Center (CRMC) – The complainant, who is deaf, reported that CRMC staff failed to provide her with a sign language interpreter on several occasions. OCR’s Region II office subsequently conducted an investigation of CRMC, which has an emergency response helicopter, a trauma center, and a 162-bed hospital, serving 56,000 patients each year in Sullivan County, New York. To resolve the matter, CRMC signed an OCR Resolution Agreement, agreeing to: (1) prohibit surcharges on auxiliary aids and services, including sign language interpreters, video interpretation services, note takers, assistive listening devices, and computer-assisted real time transcription; (2) affirm its compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794; (3) designate a Section 504 Coordinator and develop a Section 504 grievance procedure; (4) issue and post revised policies to ensure that appropriate auxiliary aids, including sign language interpreters or video interpretation services, are provided to deaf or hard-of-hearing patients or companions within the time periods set by the New York State Department of Health; (5) develop procedures to assess the sign language interpreter needs of patients or companions; (6) train CRMC personnel on its revised policies and procedures to ensure effective communication; and (7) provide regular compliance reports to OCR.  Read the CRCM Resolution Agreement



Content created by Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
Content last reviewed on November 9, 2015