The Justice Department announced today that, as part of its Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative, it has reached a settlement agreement with another health care provider, Medical Facilities of America XXIX Limited Partnership, t/a Burke Health and Rehabilitation Center in Burke, Va., to ensure that they provide effective communication to people who are deaf or have hearing loss. This settlement resolves allegations that Burke refused to provide a sign language interpreter for Melvin Warden, who is deaf, when a request was made on his behalf by Inova Fairfax via the AllScripts/Ecin system. This settlement addresses the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for health care providers, such as hospitals, rehabilitation centers, medical clinics, nursing homes and doctor’s offices, to provide effective communication to people who are deaf or have hearing loss in the provision of medical services.
The Department of Justice’s Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative is a partnership of the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney’s offices across the nation to target enforcement efforts on a critical area for individuals with disabilities. The initiative, launched on the 22nd anniversary of the ADA in July 2012, includes the participation of more than 40 U.S. Attorney’s offices.
To date, the department has entered into seven similar settlements with eight health care providers from across the United States regarding communication with people who are deaf or have hearing loss. In addition, the department reached four agreements in five weeks with health care providers regarding discrimination against individuals with HIV.
“Disability-based discrimination in health care is illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act and may further compromise a person’s health when it limits a person’s full access to medical services,” said Eve L. Hill, Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that all persons with disabilities are provided with equal access to health care services.”
Title III of the ADA requires health care providers to ensure that their communications with people with hearing disabilities are as effective as their communications with people without disabilities. To meet this obligation, health care providers, as well as other public accommodations, must provide auxiliary aids and services unless doing so would cause an undue burden to the facility or fundamentally alter the service being provided. The health care provider may not charge the individual with a disability for the cost of the auxiliary aid or service, including a sign language interpreter.
Under this settlement agreement, Burke will ensure effective communication, including providing qualified sign language interpreters, free of charge, to individuals who are deaf or who have hearing loss; establish a contract for the provision of sign language interpreter services; ensure that, for the duration of a patient’s treatment at Burke, at least one qualified sign language interpreter is available or on call for a patient or companion who is deaf or has hearing loss and whose primary means of communication is sign language; and train all staff on the provisions of the effective communication policy and procedures and the effective communication requirements of the ADA.
The department has a number of publications available to assist entities to comply with the ADA, including: a Business Brief on Communicating with People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing in Hospital Settings, www.ada.gov/hospcombr.htm ; publications specific to health care providers, HIV discrimination, and effective communication with individuals with hearing and vision disabilities; and publications about tax credits available for providing access. For more information on the ADA and to access these publications, visit www.ada.gov . The Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative settlement agreements may be found at www.ada.gov/settlemt.htm . For more information on the Barrier Free Health Care Initiative visit www.ada.gov/usao-agreements.htm . Those interested in finding out more about these settlements or the obligations of public accommodations under the ADA may also call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD), or access its ADA website at www.ada.gov . ADA complaints may also be filed by email to firstname.lastname@example.org