Justice Department Settles Disability Claims with Two Clinical Psychology Offices Involving Sign Language Interpreters and Service Animal
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan has reached settlements with two clinical psychology practices: Michael Vredevoogd P.C., and Apex Behavioral Health-Dearborn, P.L.L.C., to resolve allegations that they violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider announced today.
The ADA requires that places of public accommodation, such as medical offices, provide sign language interpreters or other appropriate auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective communication with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. The ADA also requires that public accommodations make reasonable modifications to their policies and practices, such as allowing a service animal in a treatment room, when necessary to afford full and equal services to individuals with disabilities.
Michael Vredevoogd, P.C. is a neuropsychology practice in Clinton Township, Michigan and Apex Behavioral Health-Dearborn P.L.L.C. provides mental and behavioral health services in Dearborn, MI.
These settlements resolve investigations prompted by complaints that Apex Behavioral Health-Dearborn P.L.L.C. failed to provide a sign language interpreter to a patient who is deaf and communicates using American Sign Language, and that Michael Vredevoogd, P.C., refused to provide services to a patient who used a service dog. The investigations confirmed both allegations. It also revealed that Michael Vredevoogd, P.C., had a policy of refusing to provide sign language interpreters for patients who are deaf, thus patients with disabilities at both practices were denied the opportunity to get psychological care and communicate effectively with their therapists
“It is critical for patients to be able to communicate effectively with their mental health care providers, especially clinical psychologists who must understand sensitive details in order to appropriately treat complex psychological issues” said U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider. “It is also important for patients who use service animals to be able to access the office of mental health providers. The Americans with Disabilities Act ensures that persons with disabilities are given equal access to health care.”
Under the settlement, both medical offices have agreed to update their policies and train their staff to ensure compliance under the ADA. They have also agreed to take steps to ensure that interpreters or other appropriate auxiliary aids and services are provided to individuals who need them in the future. The complainants in the Apex Behavioral Health matter will also receive monetary compensation.
For more information on the ADA and the DOJ’s Barrier Free Healthcare Initiative, visit http://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 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 be submitted to the U.S. Attorney’s Office by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 313-226-9151.