ADA requires equal access for deaf patients
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires places of public accommodation, including hospitals, doctors' offices, ambulatory surgery centers, and other healthcare providers, to offer people with disabilities equal access to goods, services, and facilities. When applying the ADA requirements to people with hearing disabilities, the main issue is ensuring adequate communication, says Melissa L. Taylormoore, JD, an associate with the law firm of McGuireWoods in Tysons Corner, VA.
Under Title III of the ADA, healthcare providers are required to provide qualified sign language interpreters and other auxiliary aids to individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, or who have speech disabilities, free of charge, in situations in which the medical services involve important, lengthy, or complex oral communications with patients or companions. Healthcare providers must provide these types of auxiliary aids unless doing so poses an undue burden to the healthcare provider or fundamentally alter the nature of the services provided.
The specific type of auxiliary aid required depends on multiple factors including the nature and length of the communication, the patient's or companion's communication skills and knowledge, and the individual's stated need for an auxiliary aid. Examples of auxiliary aids include, but are not limited to, qualified interpreters on site or though video remote interpreting (VRI) services, written materials, exchange of written notes, video text displays, or the use or text telephones (TTYs).
The individual with a disability cannot be charged extra for the cost of an interpreter or other auxiliary aid.