17Aug
illegal vs. legal rules for sign language interpreting
By: Alison On: August 17, 2016 In: Interpreting, Medical Comments: 38

Sign language interpreting helps deaf and hard of hearing people communicate, and in the United States, it is often legally required.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 established a series of measures to prohibit instances of discrimination because of a person’s disability. The ADA requires that the communication needs of hard of hearing and deaf persons are met, and this frequently demands the use of an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter.

Sign Language Interpreting & Discrimination Law

The ADA very clearly states the need for proper communication with hard of hearing and deaf individuals.

Specifically, the ADA states:

“No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.”

Additionally, discrimination includes:

“…a failure to take such steps as may be necessary to ensure that no individual with a disability is excluded, denied services, segregated or otherwise treated differently than other individuals because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services…”

The ADA definition of “auxiliary aids and services” includes “qualified interpreters or other effective methods of making aurally delivered materials available to individuals with hearing impairments.”

Therefore, any place of public accommodation is required to provide sign language interpreters or other effective means of communication for hard of hearing individuals. Depending on the situation, other effective means of communication may include assistive listening devices.

Where Sign Language Interpreting Is Required

One extremely important area covered by the ADA is the medical field, where sign language interpreting services are often required. Hospitals, for instance, must provide an appropriate means of communication to any patients, family members or hospital visitors who may be hearing impaired. This is applicable in all hospital areas, from the emergency room to the gift shop.

In some cases, the ADA specifies that an effective form of communication may consist simply of a written note, but if a conversation is more complicated — such as explaining a patient’s symptoms or a medical procedure — a qualified ASL interpreter may be necessary.

The ADA extends beyond medical settings and also covers areas like the legal, education, law enforcement and employment systems.

If a company is interviewing a deaf individual, for instance, they are required to provide sign language interpreting. Similarly, hard of hearing defendants in a legal proceeding must be provided with an interpreter.

The ADA even covers the hospitality industry. For example, hotels must meet hard of hearing communication needs by providing a teletypewriter — the device hard of hearing persons need in order to use a telephone — to guest rooms upon request, and they must also have a teletypewriter available at the front desk.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

According to ADA standards, it is usually up to the institution in question to provide — and pay for — any necessary sign language interpreting. If an institution does not comply by providing ASL interpreting to meet the needs of a hard of hearing individual, it may suffer serious penalties.

In a 2008 disability discrimination and punitive damages case, a deaf woman successfully sued a New Jersey doctor who refused to provide her with a sign language interpreter after she asked for one on multiple occasions. The jury agreed that this qualified as discrimination and ruled unanimously in favor of a $400,000 award.

Wal-Mart has also been faced with disability discrimination complaints. In 2000, the mega retailer settled a case for $135,500, brought by two deaf individuals who had applied for jobs at a Wal-Mart in Tucson, Arizona. The lawsuit was brought under the ADA.

As part of the settlement, Wal-Mart agreed to provide sign language interpreting to both individuals during their training and orientation, as well as during any scheduled meetings and work evaluations.

It’s All About Effective Communication

The key phrase used by the ADA when it comes to deaf and hard of hearing individuals is “effective communication.” Whatever is necessary to ensure effective communication is required, by law, to be done.

Although the details of what “effective communication” entails may be hazy in some cases, there’s no doubt that ultimately sign language interpreting is the most straightforward way for institutions to fulfill their obligations under the ADA.

If you require interpreting services, get in touch with Accredited Language today.

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38 Comments:

    • Annette Suh
    • November 16, 2016
    • Reply

    My non-profit hosts classes, and we’ve been asked to foot the bill for a sign-language interpreter for a class. Are we required by law to pay for the interpreters?

      • Chelsea
      • November 16, 2016
      • Reply

      Hi Annette,
      You may find this article helpful in determining whether or not you are obligated to pay for the interpreters: https://adata.org/learn-about-ada. It provides a fuller look at the ADA and what it entails.

    • Dorinda
    • November 17, 2016
    • Reply

    My daughter is deaf/hearing impaired. She had an interpreter in school for the past two years, but she retired. I was told that an interpreter was not needed in school since I do not sign with her at. Is this true? Is there a law that requires an interpreter for a child who is deaf/hearing impaired in a school setting?

      • Johnny
      • December 20, 2016
      • Reply

      yes its a laws to all the school must provide an interpreter i am help to yall need to click the links is here….https://nad.org/print/issues/education/k-12/section-504-and-ada-obligations…………..you dont need to pay the interpreter….school have to know about this….Some commenters asked for clarification about the responsibilities of public school systems under section 504 and the ADA with respect to programs, services and activities that are not covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), including, for example, programs open to parents or to the public, graduation ceremonies, parent-teacher organization meetings, plays and other events open to the public, and adult education classes. Public school systems must comply with the ADA in all of their services, programs, or activities, including those that are open to parents or to the public. For instance, public school systems must provide program accessibility to parents and guardians with disabilities to these programs, activities, or services, and appropriate auxiliary aids and services whenever necessary to ensure effective communication, as long as the provision of the auxiliary aid results neither in an undue burden or in a fundamental alteration of the program.

    • Jenny
    • November 28, 2016
    • Reply

    My son is nonverbal Autistic and relies on sign language as his main mode of communication. Does he have rights to sign language interpreting services during school and speech therapy sessions? He has not a hearing impairment, but has little to no speech.

      • Johnny
      • December 20, 2016
      • Reply

      yes its a laws to all the school must provide an interpreter i am help to yall need to click the links is here….https://nad.org/print/issues/education/k-12/section-504-and-ada-obligations…………..you dont need to pay the interpreter….school have to know about this….Some commenters asked for clarification about the responsibilities of public school systems under section 504 and the ADA with respect to programs, services and activities that are not covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), including, for example, programs open to parents or to the public, graduation ceremonies, parent-teacher organization meetings, plays and other events open to the public, and adult education classes. Public school systems must comply with the ADA in all of their services, programs, or activities, including those that are open to parents or to the public. For instance, public school systems must provide program accessibility to parents and guardians with disabilities to these programs, activities, or services, and appropriate auxiliary aids and services whenever necessary to ensure effective communication, as long as the provision of the auxiliary aid results neither in an undue burden or in a fundamental alteration of the program.

    • A Friend
    • January 07, 2017
    • Reply

    Is there a way to make basic ASL classes mandatory in hospitals?
    I have personal experience, and have heard stories about the difficulties that have arisen because the hospital staff doesn’t know ASL and cannot communicate effectively with the patients.
    I don’t see this issue as discrimination, I see it as people being unaware and I would like to change it.

      • Alizabeth
      • May 08, 2017
      • Reply

      Even if basics were learned it would still be mandatory for them to hire an interpreter. It is discrimination if they do not hire an interpreter ASAP. Hospitals KNOW they are required to hire interpreters.

    • Jerimiah
    • January 11, 2017
    • Reply

    Need some advice…

    I run a small private non-profit arts organization and am being asked to provide an accredited signer for a public rock concert. We DO offer assisted listening devices and I would most likely have to bring someone in from out of town to sign. But it really would become prohibitive cost-wise to do this.
    A reasonable solution in my mind would be to offer a complimentary seat should the individual requesting want to bring someone with them.

      • Alizabeth
      • May 08, 2017
      • Reply

      Assisted listening devices do not help Deaf individuals. Yes you are required to hire an interpreter. No a free seat does not fix the problem. If you have a staff of 25 you are legally required.

        • Jason
        • June 01, 2017
        • Reply

        Can you elaborate on why you mentioned “a staff of 25”? I’m not sure what difference it makes?

    • Joann
    • January 17, 2017
    • Reply

    I run a staffing agency and we have continuing education workshops for licensed individuals to obtain credits for renewing their license. We hold these workshops offsite, not in our facility. These are paid workshops, meaning the individuals sign up and pay to attend. Do we have to offer ASL interpreters for these workshops? We have two people wanting to attend and are asking for two ASL interpreters for the entire workshop.Also, these are not employees of our company, nor are the required to attend our workshops. This is solely their choice,

      • Jane
      • March 06, 2017
      • Reply

      Are you saying that Deaf individual have a less of opportunity because of limit communication access and Hearing individual gets more advantage of getting successful while Deaf people struggles because of your lack of provide access for them

    • Cally
    • January 27, 2017
    • Reply

    If a patient calls and schedules an appointment and then no shows and was told twice to come or she would be charged for interpertor, is it legal for us to bill the patient

      • Ruann L. Wood
      • February 06, 2017
      • Reply

      I’m not sure if someone is monitoring this board or not, but I do know the answer to this one.

      If you have a policy in place for all patients at your medical office stating that if they are no-shows for two appointments they will be charged a fee for a no-show, then you can charge the deaf patient for being a no-show too because it’s part of the office policy that they would have signed/acknowledged when they filled out new patient paperwork. However, at no time can you charge a deaf person for interpreting services.

    • Jessica
    • February 13, 2017
    • Reply

    Hi I had court for my son they never prodive me an interpreter for 2 or 3 months so frausting fir me to know what going on. Unfair.

      • Charlene
      • May 02, 2017
      • Reply

      If your son is over the age of 18, the court is not required to provide you with an interpreter for his case.

    • Sharon
    • February 17, 2017
    • Reply

    We have a patient who is 18 and does not have any hearing impairment, but one of her parent’s does. Do we have to continue providing an interpreter since the patient is an adult and without hearing issues?

      • Meryl C. S. Troop
      • March 27, 2017
      • Reply

      Yes, ADA requires communication with “companions” who are Deaf, so if interpreters are needed, they must be provided.

    • Debbie Fox
    • February 21, 2017
    • Reply

    I am an office manager at a private practice that provides mental health services. I just received a call from a new client who requires an interpreter. We will be billing her insurance for the session but was told we were responsible for the cost of the interpreter. Because we are in-network with her insurance company, we will receive a reduced rate of $60 per session. The interpreter is way more than that. Also the client requested evening hours, which will cost even more. I have not experienced this situation before and would gladly accept any guidance in understanding our responsibilities. Can I request that she must be seen within office hours?

      • Alizabeth
      • May 08, 2017
      • Reply

      It is tax deductable and yes you are required. The lawsuit could cost you a lot more and is not going to help on your taxes.

    • Kim
    • March 02, 2017
    • Reply

    Me brother in law is deaf and uses sign language to communicate his group home has no ine who signs are they required to by law

    • james
    • March 08, 2017
    • Reply

    I work in a medical office and we have Video Relay Service for sign language. If a deaf individual requests a in person interpreter instead, are we required by law to provide that for them?

    • John J
    • March 16, 2017
    • Reply

    Me and my buddy who works at https://www.woodslawaz.com/ were talking about this the other day, it was interesting because I had no idea about this.

    • Robert
    • March 16, 2017
    • Reply

    My deaf woman friend from Boston who is retired and she is planning to move to a new home in Florida this coming spring. She cannot afford to pay the sign language interpreter after her lawyer sued a defendant for his fraud and embezzlement over her mother’s will starting in 2014. The legal battle in civil/criminal case is taking almost 2 years and 10 months nearly the verdict that will be held in late spring. A deaf woman has been charged a lot of money for the legal fees, and she cannot afford to pay the interpreter for oncoming legal meetings, deposition and court (if possible)..

    Is there a requirement under ADA that an attorney shall cover the expense of sign interpreting service for her until the verdict has been reached or the case is closed?

      • Alizabeth
      • May 08, 2017
      • Reply

      yes.

    • Jim Pelton
    • March 20, 2017
    • Reply

    New hospital volunteer needs a language interpreter for training. Budget does not support the cost?

      • Alizabeth
      • May 08, 2017
      • Reply

      ADA budget does.

    • Desiarea
    • March 28, 2017
    • Reply

    I am trying to find out how many hours are required to work as a sign language interpreter for a school, hospital or anywhere in general. I have been wanting to do this since the 7th grade and just now doing a project about it for my final project grade in my 10th grade class of business and technology. Please if any one could inform me on the work hours, that would be very much appreciated.

      • HM
      • April 17, 2017
      • Reply

      Aredo you mean, how many hours are needed to become an interpreter? About 3-7 years to become fluent in the language, and many hours of interpreter training. I would recommend going to a 4-year college with a good interpreting program, like Gallaudet (DC), Eastern Kentucky University (Ky) Columbia University (Chicago), etc. There is a lot more great info available here, if you’re interested in this career! http://www.Discoverinterpreting com

      • Alizabeth
      • May 08, 2017
      • Reply

      Right there is no number of hours. There are tests you have to pass and every state is different. This is not an easy answer. I would contact colleges that offer interpreting programs and ask questions about the state you want to live in. Really it all comes down to how much work you put into it. I took classes and spent time with the Deaf community as much as possible. I started interpreting after 5 years and I did not feel ready. You never really feel ready. Watch videos of NATIVE DEAF signers in your spare time….not hearing people unless they are CODAs. Gallaudet would be great but they only take so many hearing people. Start off at a local college if you can and make sure they have a good reputation in the Deaf community. It is one of the hardest professions but is also never boring!

    • Niggole
    • April 07, 2017
    • Reply

    I work at a craft store and I had a deaf woman calling in to participate in a cake making class. She asked if we would provide an interpreter. I asked one of my assistant managers if we would and she said no they would have to bring their own. After I told the woman this she got extremely angry and told me we are required by law to provide one. I asked her to hold while I got my Store manager on the line to help her. She ended up hanging up and he honestly did not know. So does our store legally have to provide one?

    • Donna
    • May 02, 2017
    • Reply

    father is deaf ask the principle to please provide him with interpreter on three different occasions to talk about his 8 year son the principle said the father dont need ASL interpreter because the father 8 year old son know ASL and he can communicate for his dad but the father said no to please provide him with one she said no is that a discrimination?

      • Alizabeth
      • May 08, 2017
      • Reply

      Yes. He could be slapped with a huge lawsuit too. If the dad asks the teacher about his behavior the son is going to say he is doing great no matter what. Not acceptable. If I know this dad I would give him the phone number to an ADA lawyer. One call to the principal and this would be solved.

    • ROSIE
    • May 11, 2017
    • Reply

    IF THE PATIENT IS INSURED, SHOULD IT INSURANCE PAY FOR THE PROCEDURE ?
    IF PATIENT NEEDS TO SEE THE DENTIST,OR MD,
    AND NEEDS SIGN LENGUAGE INTREPETER
    INSURANCE COMPANY SHOULD PAY FOR THIS. ANY BODY KNOWS IF THERE IS AN ADA CODE TO BILL THE INSURANCE ?

    • James Rogozinski
    • June 13, 2017
    • Reply

    As a private dentist I think it is grossly unfair that I foot the bill of providing a interpreter during dental visits, especially when treating the medicaid population. The cost of the interpreter should be paid by the insurance company, the state or some other organization. For example, providing a basic exam and x-rays may result in an insurance payment of about $90 to the Doctor, and a sign interpreter cost of $135 based upon a 2 hr minimum; which results in a net loss of $45. Doesn’t even cover staff costs! Will one patient break the bank…NO. Why does the interpreter get paid but not the doctor? This is ridiculous! It is unfortunate that a person has a disability, but the cost of providing interpretive services for the individual should not be the responsibility of the health care provider. I understand that the ADA states that the cost of the interpreter is part of the cost of doing business. A very poor business model except for avoiding the strong arm financial penalties.

    There needs to be positive financial incentives, or at least financial equity, to treat the hearing impaired. If you want patients treated equally, you need to compensate the provider equally for the treatment of the patient. Many of us dread the call requesting services for the hearing impaired. Yes, we are compassionate but we should not be put in a position of losing money in order to treat any segment of the population. Jim Rogozinski, DMD.

  • Who is responsible to providing sign language interpreter …work comp or doctor office ?? I’m a patient.

    • Chris
    • July 05, 2017
    • Reply

    What states dose it apply too all of them in USA

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