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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Virginia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, July 6, 2015

Fairfax Nursing Center Agrees to Settle Claim That It Failed to Provide Effective Communication Services to Individuals Who Are Deaf

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Fairfax Nursing Center (FNC) has agreed to pay $97,500 to resolve allegations that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide effective communication services to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing in the provision of medical services.

The investigation began with a complaint from the public alleging that FNC violated the ADA by failing to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including sign language interpreter services, to two individuals who are deaf (two family members of a patient) during critical interactions relating to the patient’s medical care.  The complainants alleged that because of FNC’s failure to provide sign language interpreter services, these individuals were denied the benefit of effective communication with the skilled nursing facility’s clinical staff and the opportunity to effectively participate in treatment decisions.

“This office is committed to protecting the rights of those who are deaf or hard of hearing and to ensure that they are able to communicate with health care professionals, especially when patients and their companions have critical interactions with medical providers,” said U.S. Attorney Boente.

The agreement requires FNC to provide training to the skilled nursing facility’s staff on the requirements of the ADA; to adopt specific policies and procedures to ensure that auxiliary aids and services are provided promptly to patients and companions who are deaf or hard of hearing; pay $80,000 in compensatory damages to the two aggrieved individuals; establish a fund with $12,500 to sponsor training on the ADA’s requirements for others in the Virginia nursing facility industry; and pay $5,000 to the United States in order to vindicate the public interest.

This matter was investigated by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Gordon.

This case is a part of the Department of Justice’s Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative, which seeks to enforce the ADA’s prohibition of discrimination against disabled individuals by health care providers, including hospitals.  Through the Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative, U.S. Attorneys’ offices across the nation and the Department’s Civil Rights Division target their enforcement efforts on a critical area for individuals with disabilities—access to medical services and facilities.  The Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative is a multi-phase initiative that includes effective communication for people who are deaf or have hearing loss, physical access to medical care for people with mobility disabilities, and equal access to treatment for people who have HIV/AIDS.

The Department of Justice has a number of publications available to assist entities in complying with the ADA, including a Business Brief on Communicating with People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing in Hospital Settings, at www.ada.gov/hospcombr.htm.  For more information on the ADA and to access these publications, visit ADA.gov or call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA information Line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD).  ADA complaints may be filed by email to ada.complaint@usdoj.gov.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. The settlement document for this case and others, under the Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative, may be found on ADA.gov.

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Updated July 6, 2015