ASLized courtesy of Delawaredeaf.org
Last night there was a town hall meeting at the Deaf Center discussing the failure or refusal of hospitals to give primary consideration to the request of the patient who is Deaf when they ask for a Live In-Person Interpreter and are told they have to use VRI or get nothing at all. I was in the audience and suggested a script for making such a request.
Several people who are Deaf in the town hall asked, “why should we have to go through all that? Shouldn’t they just respect our request?”
Yes, of course they should. But if they did or would there would be no need for this town hall meeting. Hospitals are businesses and as such will not change just because the Deaf community asks. They will only change if they are forced to.
This script will help build a factual basis for future lawsuits which is the only thing hospitals will respond to.
(If you are in too much pain or stress whomever is with you can follow this script for you)
I require a live in-person ASL Interpreter for effective communication.
Let’s use VRI until we can get an interpreter here for you.
VRI is not effective for me because (pick the one that fits):
I am in pain/stress/destress and I can’t follow the three dimensional language of ASL on a two dimensional screen;
I’m not ordering a pizza, I’m trying to get medical care;
The screen is too small;
The picture keeps freezing;
Your staff does not know how to hook it up;
The VRI Interpreters can’t see or hear what is going on off screen and so I miss half the message;
My eye-sight is not good enough to see ASL on a VRI screen; or,
Your reason here.
Please make a note of the reason that VRI is not effective for me in my medical records so that we don’t have to have this discussion every time I come to the hospital.
But it’s after 5/it’s the weekend and there are no live Interpreters available.
That is not true. Interpreter referral agencies are open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Please make a note of that in my medical record so I don’t have to explain this every time I come to the hospital.
VRI is the same as a live interpreter.
It is not. VRI and Live In-Person Interpreters are listed as separate accommodations under federal law. The Affordable Care Act in Section 1557 says that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act requires you to give primary consideration to the specific accommodation I request and I request a Live In-Person Interpreter. Please make a note of that in my medical file so I will not have to have this conversation every time I come the hospital.
Well, it could take a long time for the interpreter to get here so let try VRI until then.
I will use VRI until the Live In-Person Interpreter gets here if AND ONLY IF you provide me with the following information:
1. The name of the hospital staff person who requested the interpreter on my behalf;
2. The exact time that staff person called to request the interpreter for me;
3. The name of the agency the hospital staff person called to request an interpreter for me;
4. The name of the specific person the hospital staff person spoke to at that agency to request an interpreter for me; and,
5. The time the agency estimates the interpreter will arrive at this hospital.
Provide that to me in writing and make a note of it in my medical file and I will use VRI until the interpreter arrives.
Why do you need to know all of that?
Because I need to know who has ownership of my request.
We are not allowed to give you that information.
Yes you are. None of it is protected by law. If you refuse to give me the information I request please provide me with the specific law that forbids it and also make a note in my medical record that I requested it and you refused to provide it.
We don’t put things like that in medical records.
You put all kinds of things in medical records and this is my medical record and you will put whatever I tell you to put in it.
There is not an interpreter available.
I will now call the interpreter referral agency that you told me the hospital called and verify the time you called and that there is no interpreter available. If there is in fact no interpreter available I will require you to call a different referral agency. Make a note of my request in my medical records.
We can’t call another agency, we only contract with this one.
Who this hospital does and does not contract with is not my problem. I am the patient and have a right to effective communication and if the hospital cannot provide it with the agency it uses it needs to contract with a different agency. Make a note of that in my medical records.
Do that each and every time.
If they refuse to document it then as soon as possible make a request by email to the hospital’s Office of Customer Service or Risk Management Officer that you made the request I explained above and that your nurse/doctor refused to document it in your record. Use the names of the specific people you spoke to as often as possible.
One last point, and I can’t stress this enough. Never say “I prefer a Live In Person interpreter” or “I don’t want VRI” or “I don’t like VRI.” That says to the hearing people that is just a choice you are making. The magic words are, “I need” or “I require a Live In Person Interpreter for effective communication (that comes right from the law).