In a country that prides itself on inclusiveness some disabled populations continue to struggle to gain equality, understanding and attention. The National Association of the Deaf’s "Law and
" has affirmed that equal access to all medical services in hospitals and private doctors’ offices has high priority. Health providers often mistake a person who is deaf with a person who has developmental disabilities. Each of whom a has needs, but different ones. This confusion results in a lack of communication accommodations, such as sign language interpreters, that would allow for clear information sharing. Advocacy Center
Resource Center for Independent Living’s deaf advocates LuAnn Hines and Vonne Gulak called on all advocates to make a concerted effort to compel businesses and agencies to abide by the equal access tenets of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). LuAnn and Vonne are advocates for deaf individuals and businesses, helping both groups understand their individual rights and legal responsibilities under the New York State . The ADA states that hospitals, medical and legal offices, and mental health care providers must provide qualified sign language interpreters on an as needed basis for deaf consumers. Vonne and LuAnn are familiar with the frequent refusals of many health care providers to obtain sign language interpreters and many service providers request that deaf patients bring their own interpreter. Friends and family members may not be qualified to translate complicated medical or legal language accurately and are not considered appropriate interpreters in health care settings. By law, interpreting services must be obtained by the provider. Since sign language is usually the “first language” of deaf Americans, it is ethically imperative that deaf individuals be accommodated appropriately. ADA
Vonne Gulak writes that “communication is the main cry of the deaf, and that lack of communication cuts people off from the world”. She observes that communication barriers prevent individuals who are deaf from “unlocking their minds” and moving on with their lives. Responding to the need by deaf individuals for health and legal related advocacy, assistive technology and suitable communication accommodations, RCIL has provided knowledgeable deaf advocates, a Lion’s Club Assistive Technology Loan program and also provides certified sign language interpreting services throughout central
. Without a unified effort by communities to acknowledge that the differences among us need not be permanent barriers, our deaf neighbors will be seen, but not heard. New York
- Kate F.