Florida Settlement Agreement - Summary
On January 26, 2010, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) entered into a Settlement Agreement with Florida to provide qualified sign language interpreters and other auxiliary aids and services to deaf and hard-of-hearing persons using its programs and services across the State. Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) employs approximately 14,000 persons statewide to deliver a variety of health and human services programs, including adoption, child and adult protective services, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), as well as mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities and services. These programs and services are available to an estimated total state population of 3 million deaf or hard-of-hearing residents.
Key provisions of the agreement require Florida to:
Hire an independent consultant to oversee implementation of the settlement’s terms.
Convene an “advisory committee” in partnership with the Florida Coordinating Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing comprised of professionals from nonprofit and government sectors that work on behalf of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.
Develop an action plan to ensure compliance with the agreement, in consultation with the independent consultant and advisory committee.
Undertake a comprehensive self-assessment, requiring surveys of staff and of disability advocacy organizations regarding gaps in service experienced by deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals attempting to use DCF programs.
Identify “aid-essential” programs and services, in which the importance, length, and complexity of information being conveyed is such that the exchange of information between parties will always require auxiliary aids and services for persons with disabilities, including sign language interpreters for deaf persons.
Establish an interpreter quality assessment and certification program. Florida will contract with an independent agency to evaluate the sign language and oral interpreting skill of relevant DCF personnel to determine which personnel are qualified to interpret for DCF, and ensure that contract interpreters are certified.
Designate “ADA coordinators” and “single points of contact” in the more than 100 direct service facilities operated by DCF, and across the 800 entities that contract with DCF to provide service. These ADA coordinators and points-of-contact will be required to complete significant training under the agreement.
Track and record provision (or non-provision) of services to all deaf and hard-of-hearing persons who interact with DCF. Forms soliciting feedback will be provided to such persons, and these will be collected and evaluated in compliance reports submitted to OCR.