February 17, 2012
HHS takes action to ensure equal access for the deaf and hard of hearing
HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has entered into a settlement agreement with Advanced Dialysis Centers in Randallstown Maryland (“ADC”), to ensure individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing have equal access to programs and activities as required under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
This settlement follows an OCR investigation into a complaint filed by the sister of a deaf patient at ADC who alleged that the facility repeatedly failed to provide adequate sign language interpreter services essential to her brother’s understanding of important medical decisions and treatment options.
“Despite their right to equal access and opportunity to benefit from and participate in programs funded by federal dollars, individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing continue to face unlawful barriers to getting needed health services,” said OCR Director Leon Rodriguez. “Section 504 and the ADA exist to ensure that individuals do not face discrimination in attempting to communicate with their health care providers.”
Section 504 prohibits disability-based discrimination by all health care providers that receive federal financial assistance. Where necessary to afford equal access to health care services, providers must provide free of charge to the deaf or hard of hearing person, auxiliary aids and services including sign language interpreters.
OCR found that ADC engaged in unlawful discrimination on the basis of disability by repeatedly failing to provide the patient who was deaf, a sign language interpreter while he was receiving treatment at the facility. In addition, OCR also found that ADC did not have any policies or procedures in place to address how to communicate with patients who are deaf or hard of hearing, and had not developed resources or auxiliary aids to assist in effectively communicating with these patients.
ADC has agreed to take several steps to come into compliance with Section 504 and ADA, including ensuring patients are provided interpreters in a timely manner and drafting policies and procedures which ensure effective communication with deaf or hard of hearing patients and/or companions. In addition, ADC has agreed to train all staff on their non-discrimination obligations and provide patients notice of their right to appropriate auxiliary aids and services free of charge and the process for filing and resolving grievances about such services.
The HHS Settlement Agreement can be found on the OCR website at: www.hhs.gov/ocr/civilrights/activities/agreements.
People who believe that an entity receiving federal financial assistance has discriminated against them (or someone else) on the basis of disability, may file a complaint with OCR at: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/civilrights/complaints/index.html.
Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other news materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.
Last revised: April 4, 2014