Five individuals who are Deaf from four Texas cities allege they were denied sign language interpreters for driver’s education courses required by the Texas Education Agency and later by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.
The case has been in court twice.
Once, a U.S. District Judge ruled in favor of the individuals who were Deaf.
The case was appealed in the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the case was dismissed, “saying that driver education is not a service, program, or activity of the TEA,” according to the report.
The U.S. Supreme Court will now determine what is a service, program, or activity” as far as Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Title II doesn’t allow individuals with disabilities to be excluded from “services, programs, or activities of a public entity.” Public entities serve the public and includes government agencies, according to the report.
According to the report, “Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act includes similar language, prohibiting discrimination of the disabled in any ‘program or activity’ receiving federal funding.
Said the second court that dropped the case: “We hold that the mere fact that the driver education schools are heavily regulated and supervised by the TEA does not make these schools a ‘service, program, or activity’ of the TEA,’ the court’s opinion said,” according to the report.
According to a report from The Texas Tribune, “This has the potential to be a landmark decision for deaf rights and indeed for all disability rights,” said Wayne Krause Yang, legal director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, which represents the five plaintiffs who are Deaf.
A settlement case between the U.S. government and the Orange County Clerk of Courts in Florida had a similar situation. A man who was blind was denied screen reader- accessible documents he requested from court.
This was found to violate Title II of the ADA and though the Clerk of Courts didn’t agree that the discriminated, they agreed to a settlement with the U.S. government to avoid similar situations.
According to the settlement, even if the public entity contracted the services, they are responsible for not excluding people from activities because of their disability: “a public entity may not, directly or through contractual or other arrangements, utilize methods of administration that deny individuals with disabilities access to the public entity’s services, programs, and activities or that perpetuate the discrimination of another public entity, if both public entities are subject to common administrative control or are agencies of the same state. 28 C.F.R. § 35.130(b)(3).”
The original Texas case regarding denial of interpreters for driver’s education, Ivy v. Morath, took place in 2011 and continued a process through other courts.
The Capsule Group Inc., or Capsule, and Sign Shares, Inc., will hold a Round Table Discussion on Saturday to appoint leaders for a Houston Deaf and Hard of Hearing rally.
The meeting will be from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., Saturday, July 2 at the Houston Center for Independent Living in Suite 150 at South 6201 Bonhomme Rd, Houston, TX 77036. Directions to the Round Table!
Refreshments and a light lunch will be provided. Email us letting us know your name and the names of friends you’ll bring to the upcoming Round Table so we can prepare for enough food.
We look forward to meeting past participants and new ones who are “In It to Win It!”
At Our Last HCIL Location Focus Group Meeting
On June 4, at the group’s last meeting at the center, two people gave video testimonies, which assists us in the process of developing a documentary film telling our stories.
Under the revised law, you have a choice of what works best for you regarding communication language access. On July 18, the law goes into effect, which reinforces that right.
At our meetings, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities are telling us that a live interpreter matches their 3-D language needs.
Order Cards Now
We have “My Choice” cards for available for pick up at the office or at the upcoming Round Table. The cards let your health care provider know you preference for a live interpreter. Email us to let us know how many to reserve for you.
Keep in touch
You may contact us at Sign Shares, Inc.: Video Phone: Deaf / Hard-of-Hearing:
In honor of new Section 1557 revisions that place first preference on the person with a disability’s choice of accommodations with their health care providers, Sign Shares, Inc. will provide free wallet cards for individuals who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Deaf-Blind.
Sign Shares is an interpreting agency for all languages, and is Deaf and Hard of Hearing friendly, providing services 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.
Through Galveston and Houston focus groups in partnership with The Capsule Group, or Capsule, as well as advocacy calls, the company has discovered that many health care providers don’t ask individuals which accommodation they need, causing problems for members of the Deaf Community.
One recent example is when providers offer Video Remote Interpreting, or VRI, without consent of the individual needing services. Some individuals don’t know what it is, while others insist on face-to-face interaction for important events concerning their health. Other problems result from the denial of interpreters, or pressure for individuals to use unqualified friends or family members to interpret for them.
According to the company’s website, “Patients who are Deaf & Hard of Hearing, now must be given an option for their choice of proper language communication access. They make the choice, since they know their language. It is their human right to choose. A Deaf person’s language is 3D – a flat screen device does not do justice towards their voice.”
Wallet cards will give those with hearing loss or deafness the ability to “Keep your rights, right by your side!” according to the website.
Complaints may already be filed because the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, who drafted the revisions, determined that existing laws that impact Section 1557 already required that health care providers attempt to use the patient’s choice of accommodation as a first choice.
According to a newly released report, America has 153,000 Deaf and Hard of Hearing inmates who are not only in jail or prison now, but who have a high likelihood of continuing a life of crime. About 7 percent of all jail and prison inmates have deafness or hearing loss.
The media, including PBS NEWSHOUR, instantly responded to the report, “Disability and Criminal Justice Reform: Keys to Success,” interviewing the organization’s CEO, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi.
According to the organization’s website, the report isn’t using new information: “The report uses public data previously available but never before assembled and analyzed.”
“According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 32 percent of federal prisoners and 40 percent of people in jail have at least one disability,” according to the report.
The organization broke down the statistics on disability;
more than 751,000 people with disabilities are behind bars in America, including:
146,000 who are blind or have vision loss,
153,000 who are deaf or have significant hearing impairments,
More than 219,000 who have mobility issues, and
more than 504,000 with cognitive impairments,
according to the website.
In the PBS interview, Mizrahi addressed issues that people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing face that can lead to their entry in the justice system:
“It really happens when young people who have dyslexia or executive function disorder don’t get the diagnosis, don’t get the accommodations that they need and they deserve in school.’
“They wind up getting in trouble, getting suspended, dropping out of school…’
“And, in some cases, they’re very, very smart, and they might be deaf. There’s all kinds of situation where individuals who are hearing-impaired are not given the right language supports with ASL, American Sign Language, so they can defend themselves,” Mizrahi said.
The report proposed reforms for the justice system that the Sign Shares’ blog will cover in future posts.
The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, or DARS, will be abolished Sept. 1, 2016, according to the Master Transition Plan drafted by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
DARS’ services will transfer to Health and Human Services or to the Texas Workforce Commission.
Why DARS is being abolished
As a result of a Texas Legislature review of the departments of Health and Human Services, legislators approved a bill to combine some departments and abolish others.
According to the plan, “The passage of Senate Bill 200 gives [Health and Human Services] an opportunity to develop a more fully streamlined, efficient system that more effectively provides services and benefits.”
DARS is one of the agencies that will be abolished, but it’s a unique situation.
Some DARS’ services will transfer to Health and Human Services
This September, according to the plan, “select functions at [DARS],” will transfer to Health and Human Services.
DARS’ programs transferring to Health and Human Services are:
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services,
Disability Determination Services,
the Independent Living Program,
Blind Children’s Vocational Discovery and Development,
Blindness Education, Screening and Treatment,
Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services, and
Early Childhood Intervention.
What are Independent Living Services?
According to the DARS’ website, Independent Living Services “promotes self-sufficiency despite the presence of one or more significant disabilities.”
To qualify for services, a person must be certified by a counselor:
“to have a significant disability that results in a substantial impediment to their ability to function independently in the family and/or in the community, and
there must be a reasonable expectation that Independent Living Services assistance will result in the ability to function more independently.”
Another Service Provider is Added
While Independent Living Services will transfer to Health and Human Services, DARS’ website describes an additional change: that another law “also requires DARS to contract with Centers for Independent Living to provide all Independent Living services, including services for older individuals who are blind, no later than August 31, 2016.’
“Health and Human Services Commission will oversee these contracts effective September 1, 2016.”
Independent Living Services, according to DARS’ website, have had waiting lists to receive services.
Some DARS’ programs transfer to the Texas Workforce Commission
Four of DARS’ programs will transfer to the Texas Workforce Commission, which is the main governmental job training and job search program for the State of Texas:
Independent Living Services for Older Individuals Who are Blind,
the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center,
and Business Enterprises of Texas.
According to the commission’s blog, Solutions, it will add more than 1,860 DARS’ employees and more than 96,000 program participants to its service network.
DARS’ consumers transitioning to the commission will still receive the same services, “from the same counselors and, in most cases, from the same locations. DARS’ online resources associated with the programs transitioning to TWC will be available on the TWC website.’
“People with questions about DARS’ programs moving to TWC should continue to use the DARS’ inquiries phone number, 800-628-5115. Most direct phone numbers for current DARS staff will remain the same after September 1,” according to the blog.
What Vocational Rehabilitation is
Vocational Rehabilitation services support working or preparing for employment.
“The Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Program helps people who have physical or mental disabilities prepare for, find or keep employment. Gaining skills needed for a career, learning how to prepare for a job interview or getting the accommodations needed to stay employed are just a few of the ways this program helps people with disabilities increase productivity and independence,” according to the DARS’ website.
How bringing Vocational Rehabilitation to the Texas Workforce Commission May Help
Consumers will now be working together with contacts who know how to locate jobs, the commission’s specialty.
How it will affect DARS’ consumers
For the most part, the transition plans attempt to make sure that consumers will receive their services without any interruption. However, the quality of services or the time it takes to receive them may change.
Special considerations for consumers who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Deaf-Blind
While Health and Human Services and the Texas Workforce Commission are used to providing accommodations for people with communication access needs, Centers for Independent Living across the state have different levels of experience with these needs.
Since centers began as grassroots organizations developed by people who had certain disabilities in their area, they now must expand to have greater representation for all abilities. While center staff members are at least half-represented by people with disabilities, they may not have communication disabilities and there may be a learning curve in different parts of the state.
Some centers do have Deaf staff members and Deaf programs and are very familiar with Deaf culture and sign language. Some centers also have staff members who are blind and regularly use magnification devices, screen readers, or Braille.
Deaf community members seeking to live independently but not necessarily work would be the ones who would be contracted out to meet with their local center’s staff. Though the state has many centers, some areas also don’t have a center nearby.
If you read Deaf blogs or Deaf organizations’ websites for information about requesting and receiving live sign language interpreters for medical appointments, you probably won’t find recent news about a law revision giving patients who are Deaf many rights.
Revisions to part of the Affordable Care Act bring more rights–including:
the right to choose which accommodations work best for you,
how health care providers need to post notices with information about how to get an interpreter or other accommodations, and
requirements for interpreters your health care provider uses to communicate with you.
The National Association of the Deaf’s website has a “Position Statement on Health Care Access for Deaf Patients” that doesn’t include the most recent information about laws that now give patients who are Deaf the right to choose: the best communication method for them, whether they need a live or remote interpreter, and more.
Deaf Organizations Provided Input for the Law Changes
We’ve examined the most recent law revisions for you. We asked the National Association of the Deaf’s Policy Counsel of the Law and Advocacy Center, Zainab Alkebsi, Esq., why the latest law revisions aren’t on the organization’s website. She said that the National Association of the Deaf, or NAD, gave formal comments to Health and Human Services regarding the revisions to a part of the Affordable Care Act that now gives patients who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf-Blind, the right to choose.
Changes Section 1557 Brings
The part of the law that provides the changes is Section 1557.
Here are changes Section 1557 addresses, when your medical provider:
denies you an interpreter,
tells you to bring your own interpreter,
asks you to use family members or friends as interpreters for your appointment,
or when you are told an interpreter can’t be provided because they are a small practice.
All of the above excuses are now removed by Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which Health and Human Services has revised.
The changes are so broad, this is probably one of the reasons Alkebsi said the NAD is transitioning their website to a new one.
The Biggest Change the Law Brings for the Deaf Community
The language for Section 1557 is complicated. One of the most important revisions for the Deaf community says healthcare providers should give individuals a choice about how they will communicate.
Section 1557 says medical providers should “give primary consideration to the choice of an aid or service requested by the individual with a disability.”
In a time when many health care providers are considering providing remote sign language interpreters, often without asking patients who are Deaf what is most appropriate for them, Health and Human Services reaffirms federal laws to defend the individual’s right of choice to determine what accommodations will help them understand their health care providers best.
Section 1557 revisions are based on Health and Human Services interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Acts’ Titles II and III.
Title III says that public service providers need to provide accommodations for people with disabilities.
The department’s interpretation of Title II has brought the most changes, because anyone who receives government funding such as Medicare or Medicaid or other financial resources, which includes almost every medical practice and hospital, must follow the law. And the department determined that the law calls for the health care providers to give “primary consideration,” or first choice, to the person with a disability.
Removal of Economic Burden as Reason for Not Providing an Interpreter
Before, smaller health care practices, such as a clinic or dentist’s office, were allowed to give an excuse for not providing interpreters if the costs of the interpreter was a “burden” to the practice.
With the Section 1557 revisions, claiming a financial burden for providing barrier free healthcare with sign language interpreters is removed.
Why Using Family, Friends, or Inexperienced Interpreters May Not be Appropriate
Each individual has a choice about their needs. It’s sometimes difficult to know what’s best, though.
Health and Human Services determined that interpreters should be familiar with medical vocabulary, or “terminology,” as well as how healthcare providers communicate, or “phraseology.”
According to the revisions, “…we added the words ‘terminology’ and ‘phraseology’ in both definitions to align the final rule’s description of the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities an interpreter must possess with those recognized within the field.”
Federal law has already determined that having people under the age of 18 should not interpret for anyone. Why? It can be psychologically damaging to children to interpret for others and feel responsible for their health. If things go poorly, the child may feel responsible for injuries or death. Besides this, some material covered during health care appointments may be too advanced or mature for children.
When selecting whether a friend or family member should interpret for your medical appointment, consider if they will:
understand medical vocabulary,
keep your medical appointment confidential, and
avoid getting emotional.
Required: Notices about How to Request an Interpreter or File a Complaint
Section 1557 also requires providers to have notices with information about how to request an interpreter or other accommodations, as well as information about who to contact if you have a grievance, or complaint.
If your health care provider doesn’t have this notice, they can find examples of what language to use on their notices on the Section 1557 web page, under the Appendix Section.
Those Receiving Government Money Can’t Discriminate
Health and Human Services cited many disability laws, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which doesn’t allow for any government contractor–that is, anyone receiving money from the federal government–to discriminate against patients, even if the cost of interpreters is more than the money they make from patients.
Tax Assistance for Health Care Providers
While this could seem unfair to health care providers, if they make less than $1 million a year and have a staff of 30 people or less, they qualify for a tax deduction. This allows them to get their money back.
Even the IRS recommended asking the person who is Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Deaf-Blind, which accommodation they needed, and not assuming it or basing the decision on the health care provider’s choice.
Health care providers should discuss interpreter costs with their financial professional to determine which tax credits and/or deductions they can take for these expenses.
More Ways for Providers to Save Money
Certified and/or qualified interpreters protect providers from liabilities that may arise from patients who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Deaf-Blind that don’t understand them and whose conditions worsen as a result. Cases like this may result in lawsuits, some of which the U.S. Department of Justice joins.
Lawsuits can be more expensive than personal damages alone, because health care providers may be required to:
provide staff training,
document their processes,
undergo government supervision, and
potentially have to assign or hire staff to manage accommodations requests.
Lawsuits are Rarely the Answer: Education and Advocacy Are
When we at The Capsule Group and Sign Shares, Inc. communicate with the Deaf community as advocates, they often ask about us how to file a lawsuit. While going to court is an option, it’s a choice that involves a lot of time and effort.
Only serious incidences usually end up going to court, such as when not understanding a health care provider resulted in serious health problems or worse.
First, educate your health care professional about your needs. You can also send them to the Section 1557 website at http://1.usa.gov/24j8z7j to learn about the changes and your right to choose an interpreter or the services you need to communicate with them.
Violations of Section 1557 can already be reported to Health and Human Services. These violations are Civil Rights Complaints and can be completed online.
Educating yourself and others about the changes in the law is one of the quickest ways to make sure everyone knows about them understands them.
If you know of anyone needing this information, please share this article or link with them.
The Capsule Group and Sign Shares Inc./International held an event in Galveston, Texas on Friday, June 3, to address Deaf community concerns regarding the use of Video Remote Interpreting, or VRI, in health care settings.
According to the report, Galveston resident Janie Morales, who is Deaf, wants a live interpreter.
“When Janie Morales goes to the hospital, she doesn’t want to speak to a computer screen,” according to the report.
One of Morales’ chief complaints was that VRI was on a small screen and it was difficult to see.
Attendees requested more information about how to request live interpreters and shared their experiences with healthcare interpreting in general.
The group also discussed revisions to healthcare law Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which will now hold the higher standard of giving preference to the individual with a disability’s choice of accommodation. While revisions to Section 1557 go into effect in July, complaints are active now, since preference for consumer choice was already in effect under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
If you’re concerned about not having a choice about the use of Video Remote Interpreting with your healthcare professional, you can call Video Phone: Deaf / Hard-of-Hearing: VP1: 832-431-3854 or VP2: 832-431-4889 to discuss it with Sign Shares advocates.