United States Resolves Dispute With Doylestown Nursing Home Over Access To Sign Language Interpreters
PHILADELPHIA – Briarleaf Nursing and Convalescent, Inc., a skilled nursing facility in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, has entered into a settlement agreement with the United States to resolve an allegation that the facility violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The settlement arises out of a complaint that the United States received from the son of a deaf prospective resident who communicated using sign language. The complainant allegedly informed Briarleaf that his mother would need a sign language interpreter 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. The admissions representative allegedly responded that a sign language interpreter was not in the facility’s budget.
According to Briarleaf, a nursing home administrator told the complainant during a subsequent call that Briarleaf did not have the current capability to provide sign language interpreter services, but would research their availability. The complainant’s mother died at a hospital before she transitioned to Briarleaf or any other skilled nursing facility.
To resolve the matter, Briarleaf has agreed to provide residents who are deaf or hard of hearing with appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including qualified interpreters, when necessary to ensure effective communication. In addition, the settlement agreement requires Briarleaf to assess residents’ communications needs during the admission process, maintain records of interpreter requests, contract with a third-party interpreter service, post signs at the facility, provide training to personnel, and publish a policy statement about effective communication. After the United States requested information from Briarleaf during its investigation, Briarleaf voluntarily took steps to train the facility’s personnel, contract with an interpreter service, and establish a communication policy.
The settlement agreement also requires Briarleaf to provide an annual written report to the U.S. Attorney’s office regarding the status of its compliance during the agreement’s two-year term, and to notify the U.S. Attorney’s Office of any complaints that the facility failed to provide auxiliary aids and services to residents or companions who are deaf or hard of hearing. Briarleaf did not admit liability, and the settled civil claims are allegations only.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is committed to investigating alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Those interested in learning more about effective communication obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act may access www.ada.gov, or call the Department of Justice’s toll-free information line at (800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TDD). Information about filing a complaint, including instructions for filing a complaint online, can be found at www.ada.gov/filing_complaint.htm.
The case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael S. Macko.