11. Doctor & Interpreter

David Hi Kathy, I got an email from a man who is deaf. He made an appointment with a doctor and told the receptionist that he is deaf and needs a sign language interpreter. The receptionist emailed back that he could either bring a family member or the doctor’s office would arrange for an interpreter, but he would have to pay.  Maybe the receptionist doesn’t know about the ADA.

Kathy Yeah, even though they ADA has been the law for almost 25 years a lot of medical providers don’t seem to understand their obligations. The ADA requires that communication with people with disabilities be as effective as communication with others.

David What do you mean by “effective communication?

Kathy For people who hard of hearing the doctor may need to provide an assistive listening device, if the doctor has medical forms, the doctor may need to provide them in Braille for someone who is blind and for a person who is deaf, the doctor needs to provide a sign language interpreter. Sometimes that means spending money.

David Well one of the things the receptionist wrote in the email was that the interpreter would cost more money than the doctor would get for the appointment, So the receptionist was sure the doctor didn’t have to pay.

Kathy Wrong…the doctor needs to pay unless it’s an undue burden, meaning significant difficulty or expense. The doctor needs to look at her total income and expenses not just what she will receive from the insurance for the appointment. There are federal tax credits and deductions that can be used to offset the expense.

David Are there any documents I can send to this guy?

Kathy The Department of Justice has a publication called Communicating with People Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing in Hospital Settings and it applies to all medical providers even sole practioners. It’s on the Department of Justice’s web site www.ada.gov .  I hope this helps.