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.”
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.
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.