For too many years, Deaf people have been denied the right to effective communication. This is changing with LP Connect, a membership program created by Language People which issues membership cards that have printed information asserting the ADA right to interpretation services.
The Deaf consumer market has 3-5 people around them who vote and consume based on how they are treated.
The Deaf consumer base is embedded in every other demographic.
Estimated 10 Million Deaf and Hard of Hearing in the U.S. 50 Million Extended Market
A look into Healthcare
Navigating healthcare is challenging for hearing people, but the challenges are multiplied for a Deaf person whose primary language is ASL. Health insurance information is not available in ASL. We know of a Deaf friendly insurance broker who specializes in Medicare and directs his Deaf clients to HMOs that cover interpretation services. Creating health equity for the Deaf depends upon people like this.
A problem arises when an unscheduled healthcare visit occurs. The Deaf person still needs an interpreter, and has a right to one under the law, but many healthcare providers are unwilling to pay for it. What is even more alarming is when there is a lack of concern (or even curiosity) on the part of the healthcare professional for the Deaf person’s plight.
Deaf callers to our customer service/advocacy line are often unaware they need to check with their insurance provider to see if interpretation services are covered and what the process is.
When a Deaf person does request an interpreter from their healthcare provider, it may be through written notes or through a Video Relay Service (VRS). With outpatient providers, there is usually no formal process a Deaf person can use to request an interpreter.
For communication to be effective it needs to be easily understood by a Deaf person.
Deaf patients who were denied interpreters were hesitant to complain because they did not want to upset their health provider.
There is a perception of an unequal power relationship between patient and physician – Even more so when the patient is Deaf.
As healthcare consumers, Deaf people have the right to request better service and hold their providers accountable.
Deaf people have the right to understand what medications they are taking, how to properly take medication and what side effects to monitor.
This also applies to a Deaf parent or caregiver who needs to assist with administering medication.
- Present correctly translated materials in video format to the Deaf individual
- Allow the Deaf person to select “I agree” or “I disagree” as to the content
- Should the Deaf individual not understand, provide options for interpretation prior to final authorization
- Visually record the Deaf individual, via video conference, affirming their name and their understanding of, or agreement to the terms presented.
- Store this “process” and “consent” as a digital authorization file.
In working with Deaf people to achieve equal access to healthcare services, it is imperative for Deaf people to be actively engaged as effective self-advocates.
Deaf advocacy organizations, and government ADA enforcement efforts make health equity for the Deaf a more widespread reality.