Sign Shares had its annual holiday party on Saturday, Dec. 10 at Massa’s South Coast Grill in Houston.
Joe Massa and the South Coast Grill team provided fabulous food and hospitality as consumers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, and Sign Shares’ staff and interpreters gathered to have a hilarious time.
One of the evening’s highlights was the Ugly Sweater contest, which was voted on by party goers and was won by Kathy Fritsche, who wore a green, hand-decorated tinsel and ornament sweater. Other sweaters ran from silly to adorable and Mrs. Claus appeared!
Teams competed in the challenging Snowball (marshmallow) toss, where team members tried without much success at times to catch marshmallows by mouth.
Thursday, Aug. 18, despite thunderstorms, a group of advocates who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing stood up at the Houston City Hall for their right to have preference given to their choice of accommodation at their doctor’s offices or hospitals.
Despite recent law revisions, the Deaf community braces for the education needed to ensure that a person who is Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Deaf-Blind will receive the accommodation of their choice at appointments with their health care providers.
Many doctors and hospitals protest paying for live interpreters and in many cases now, people who are Deaf are provided with Video Remote Interpreters, or VRI, without regard to their specific need for accommodation.
Recent changes involve health care providers adopting Video Remote Interpreting programs to save money instead of asking patients from the Deaf community what they need.
Communication problems addressed by some of the above legal cases would make some health care providers wonder if they would save money after all, if remote interpreting services fail due to technical errors or the physical limitations of having an interpreter over a small screen with a small voice.
At the rally, Deaf advocate Robert Yost pointed to a flaw in the Americans with Disabilities Act as the source of problems people who are Deaf have when requesting interpreters for health care.
“Once the law was being passed, it was done by the business community that made an influence on Congress people to vote and put that one word in there that says ‘Reasonable Accommodation’ and that one word is realized that businesses, doctors, medical centers, police departments, everywhere, to have a right to do the cheapest way to interpret for Deaf people,” Yost said, according to the KPFT report.
Other advocates stressed their choice to have their preference of accommodation met.
Advocate Dana Mallory signed, according to the report, “So I am here to recognize the problems we are noticing here in the Deaf community, preferring to have in an emergency situation a live person rather than a video remote interpreter. To meet their goals, we as Deaf would prefer to have a live person. We want to be able to have the choice.”
Having news radio coverage wasn’t lost on Sign Shares’ CEO and Capsule’s Founder, Eva Storey. “This is unique. I love the fact that we get the hearing world especially public radio coming in here, because the only way to get and make effective for the Deaf community is going to the hearing world, and mainstreaming them and with education. It’s three words we use: Advocate, Educate, and Legislate, and that’s all we are here to do.”
The community-demand rally, “Deny VRI – Video Remote Interpreting,” will be held on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Houston City Hall.
The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. on the steps of Houston City Hall facing Hermann Square.
Parking will be at Houston Public Library. Parking is on Lamar Street and is $2.00 an hour. Participants will meet at the library and march to City Hall.
The Houston City Hall is located at 901 Bagby St, Houston, TX 77002.
The rally concerns the Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing, and Deaf-Blind communities that experience barriers to proper language communications access by healthcare providers within medical based settings, with the improper use of Video Remote Interpreting, or VRI, rather than giving patients the right to choose the use of a live interpreter(s).
“Now VRI…” Darla Connor, an advocate who is Deaf signed,”a Deaf person requests for a sign language interpreter and the doctor says, ‘Yeah, we will go ahead and provide that interpreter for you” and so they [the person who’s Deaf] says, ‘Fine, thank you.’ So the Deaf person is sitting there waiting and surprisingly what do they bring? A VRI screen, and the Deaf person is completely confused. Because they say, ‘I didn’t request for VRI.’ They didn’t clarify.”
Patients’ rights are being sidelined due to healthcare district budgets. Budgets should not jeopardize a person’s medical urgencies and well-being. This is a human rights’ issue and a violation of civil rights. VRI is being pushed upon the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities.
Through research held by The Capsule Group, known as Capsule, the group learned that people who are Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing, and Deaf-Blind, are not given their patient rights, or civil rights to be consulted about their preferences, options, or freedom to choose a video remote interpreter versus a live interpreter, since theirs is a 3D, gestural language.
Dr. Angela K. Trahan, an advocate who’s Deaf, signed, “Now a long time ago, you used to have live interpreters and now we are being given the video screens. We don’t like that, but if we continue to accept that, that means maybe in the future, we won’t have any live interpreters.”
“They are oppressing me and they are not giving me my choice,” signed Deaf advocate Robert Yost, “and I am hoping all deaf people will complain about that word ‘reasonable.’ Remove that word and let’s add ‘choices.'”
Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act revisions that went into effect this past July affirm the obligation under the Title II regulation of the Americans with Disabilities Act “to give primary consideration to the choice of an aid or service requested by the individual with a disability.”
Sign Shares Inc. was the first sign language agency in the United States, four years before the American With Disabilities Act came into fruition. When the ADA arrived at the laws to be written around the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities, they contacted Sign Shares Inc. to provide them guidance around these communities.
In 2016, Sign Shares reached their 30-year mark within the industry and after seeing the hardships, the denial, and injustices within the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities, Eva Storey, President and CEO for Sign Shares Inc., founded Capsule, a cross-disability business with a mission to advocate, educate, and legislate on behalf of people of all disabilities to have unlimited access to resources and support needed to achieve life.
The CEO of Sign Shares and Capsule’s Founder, Eva Storey, said, “We have been interpreting for 30 years for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people. Now we are interpreting for the entire community’s voices.”
At the Houston Abilities Expo on Saturday, Aug. 6, accessible travel blogger Cory Lee of Georgia will present a workshop, “Traveling Curb Free: How to Explore the World in a Wheelchair.”
Lee is Founder and CEO of curbfreewithcorylee.com . He writes about accessible travel while using a power wheelchair.
According to Lee’s website, “I want to share my accessible (and to my dismay, sometimes not so accessible) adventures with you. My life goal is to visit every continent, even Antarctica.” He hopes his blog will “inspire you to start rolling around the world.”
Lee’s presentation will offer new options for travelers with mobility needs. “Learn how to properly prepare for accessible travel, what destinations and modes of transportation are suitable for your needs, and even how to deal with those unexpected circumstances that often arise while traveling in new places.”
The accessible travel blogger has written an ebook, Air Travel for Wheelchair Users, which, according to his website, is “entirely devoted to alleviating any fears that wheelchair users may have when it comes to flying.”