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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Alabama

Monday, March 24, 2014

Endoscopy Center Agrees To Ensure Necessary Aid To Visually Impaired Patients

BIRMINGHAM -- The Alabama Digestive Health and Endoscopy Center, a joint venture operating in leased space on the Brookwood Medical Center campus, has agreed to take action to ensure that patients who are blind or visually impaired receive necessary aids or services to enable them to communicate effectively with doctors and staff, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance.

ADHEC and Brookwood Medical Center each have entered a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. A key provision of the settlement is a commitment to provide qualified readers, taped texts, audio recordings, Brailed materials, large-print materials or signature guides to patients -- or a family member, friend or associate assisting in a patient's care -- who are blind or visually impaired.

The Justice Department initiated negotiations after a visually impaired woman filed a complaint against ADHEC in April 2013 under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The woman claimed that staff at ADHEC failed to provide auxiliary aid to ensure effective communication with her. Rather than reading her the medical and legal documents for her to sign, the woman claimed the endoscopy center staff gave the documents to her husband for his signature.

ADHEC and Brookwood Medical Center dispute the woman's allegations and deny the endoscopy center failed to comply with Title III of the ADA, which prohibits public accommodations from discriminating against someone on the basis of disability in gaining full and equal access to its goods, services, facilities and privileges. The act also requires public accommodations to provide auxiliary aids and services if needed to ensure effective communication.

ADHEC and Brookwood Medical Center cooperated with the government's investigation and acknowledged their legal obligation, as well as their shared interest in providing blind and visually impaired individuals with the assistance necessary to communicate fully with staff, caregivers and doctors.
Other provisions of the settlement include:
• That the determination of whether, and which, aids a blind or visually impaired patient may need must be made at the time an appointment is scheduled or on the patient's arrival. ADHEC and Brookwood each will assess a patient's communication abilities and needs as part of each initial patient assessment.
• That all patients and companions who may need additional communication aids or services will be notified of the services available to them, regardless of whether the patient or companion has requested assistance.
• If the endoscopy center or the medical center staff believe that providing additional communications aids or services might assist in providing medical services to a patient, but neither the patient nor the patient's companion has requested assistance, each will inform the patient or companion that such assistance is available and free.
• Provide mandatory ADA training, annually, to physicians, employees and staff who might interact with patients or their companions on how to identify the communication needs of visually impaired patients and patient companions. The training also will include the types of auxiliary aids and services available and the notification procedures for alerting staff and physicians when patients and companions who might need those services schedule appointments, tests, therapies or other health care services.
• The agreement and the obligations are for a term of two years.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Carolyn W. Steverson represented the government in this matter.

Updated March 19, 2015