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Press Release

DOJ and Vancouver, Washington, hospital resolve allegations of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) violations

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington
Hospital failed to provide sign language interpreter to patient who is deaf

Seattle – PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver, Washington has resolved allegations it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide a sign language interpreter to a patient who is deaf. The settlement, with the U.S. Department of Justice, requires the medical facility to improve its services, staff training, and communications with the public. The patient will be paid $75,000 for the discrimination she suffered while hospitalized March 20-23, 2020.

“Ensuring compliance with the American with Disabilities Act is a top priority of our Civil Rights Unit – and that is critically important in the health care setting,” said U.S. Attorney Tessa Gorman. “When facing hospitalization and treatment, every patient deserves clear communication about their course of treatment. This settlement seeks to ensure that effective communication for each patient.”

According to the settlement agreement, PeaceHealth violated the ADA by failing to have a sign language interpreter for the patient and that failure caused significant emotional distress as the patient was unable to understand the reason for her hospitalization or the suggested course of treatment. Other patients who needed sign language interpreters or video remote interpreting services, were also denied appropriate communication aids.

Under the terms of the settlement, hospital staff will now assess a patient’s communications needs at the initial visit. They will also assess the needs of the patient’s companion. As part of their scheduling obligation, staff will make sure appropriate language services are available for effective communication.

The medical center will designate members of staff as the communications services resources. At least one of these staff members will be available at all times the hospital is operating. This person is responsible for knowing where the assistive devices are located and how to arrange for qualified sign language interpreters.

The hospital will keep a log of all requests for qualified interpreters or video remote interpretation. The hospital will keep records of all complaints about services provided to patients who are deaf, deaf-blind, or hard of hearing. The hospital may not charge additional fees for the interpretation services.

Under the terms of the agreement, PeaceHealth Southwest will maintain relationships with five different interpreter services. The hospital will have access to Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) but will not use it if it does not provide effective communication for the patient.

PeaceHealth agrees to post information about auxiliary aids and services in the facility and on its website. The medical facility also commits to training personnel about the communications resource program and services.

Every six months PeaceHealth Southwest will provide a compliance report to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and will report any complaint regarding failure to provide effective communication within 45 days.

In addition to the $75,000 paid to the complaint in this case, the medical center will pay DOJ $10,000 for violating the ADA.

This matter was referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office by the Northwest Justice Project (NJP).

The matter was investigated, and the settlement was negotiated, by Assistant United States Attorney Susan Kas, who serves as the Civil Rights Coordinator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Washington.


Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Communications Director Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or

Updated February 15, 2024

Civil Rights
Disability Rights