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Press Release

Justice Department Settles Americans with Disabilities Act Lawsuit with Michigan’s Henry Ford Health System

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department has reached a settlement with the Henry Ford Health System to ensure effective communication with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing in the provision of medical services. The agreement, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), resolves a complaint filed with the Department of Justice that alleged that the Henry Ford Health System failed to provide sign language interpreters to a deaf patient at one of its in-patient psychiatric facilities and to his family members who are also deaf and need interpreters to communicate effectively with health care providers.


The complaint alleged that the health system violated the ADA by failing to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including sign language interpreter services, to a deaf patient and his family at Kingwood Hospital in Ferndale, Mich. Because of the hospital’s failure to provide sign language interpreter services, a deaf individual was denied the benefit of effective communication with hospital staff, the opportunity to effectively participate in medical treatment decisions, and the full benefit of health care services provided by Kingswood Hospital, which is a part of the health system. The Justice Department then conducted a full review of the health system and determined that systems were not adequate to ensure that deaf and hard of hearing patients are provided with auxiliary aids and services to guarantee effective communication throughout their medical treatment.


“The ADA protects the right of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to be able to access medical services, and this settlement is the latest example of the Justice Department’s unwavering commitment to enforcing the ADA,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “This settlement also demonstrates Henry Ford Health System’s commitment to provide effective communication to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.”


"This settlement enables the Henry Ford Health System and the federal government to achieve their common goal to ensure that deaf and hard of hearing patients can communicate with their doctors and obtain equal access to medical treatment, especially at critical moments in their care," said Barbara McQuade, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.


The settlement agreement requires the health system to provide training to hospital staff on the requirements of the ADA; to adopt specific policies and procedures to ensure that auxiliary aids and services are promptly provided to patients or companions who are deaf or hard of hearing; to appoint a corporate ADA administrator and ADA facilitators at each of its hospitals, urgent care facilities, medical clinics, community health centers and affiliated health care facilities to ensure access to appropriate auxiliary aids and services. The settlement agreement also requires the Henry Ford Health System to pay $70,000 to family members who were denied effective communication.


The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities by hospitals. Among other things, the ADA requires doctors, hospitals and other health care providers to provide equal access to patients and companions who are deaf or hard of hearing. When medical services involve important, lengthy or complex oral communications with patients or companions, hospitals are generally required to provide qualified sign language interpreters and other auxiliary aids, free of charge, to individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities. The appropriate auxiliary aid to be provided depends on a variety of factors, including the nature, length and importance of the communication; the context of the communication; the communication skills and knowledge of the individual who is deaf or hard of hearing; and the individual’s stated need for a particular type of auxiliary aid.


Those interested in finding out more about this settlement or hospitals’ effective communication obligations under the ADA may 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 . ADA complaints may be filed by email to . This investigation was handled jointly by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.

Updated August 7, 2015

Press Release Number: 12-149