Woman cites sign language barrier at Dallas hospital

rachel interview WFAA screenshot

Woman cites sign language barrier at Dallas hospital

David Schechter, WFAA

March 1, 2015

DALLAS — A Dallas woman says she was refused treatment at a local hospital because she is deaf.

Rachel Valdez, 31, says on recent visit to Doctors Hospital at White Rock Lake, staff refused to provide her with a sign language interpreter, and a security guard forced her to leave.

Valdez does not read lips, and even typing messages back-and-forth can be a little difficult.

“I have rights as a deaf person,” she said.

Valdez says, during a recent visit to Doctors Hospital she asked for an interpreter — and was refused. Then, she says she asked if she could write messages by hand instead, and was also refused.

When an IV needle began hurting her arm, she had no way to communicate her pain.

“And she put too much pressure on the needle and my arm is bruised from doing that,” Valdez told WFAA. “And again, there was no communication and so I couldn’t even tell the nurse what was going on.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires hospitals to provide “auxiliary aids” to ensure effective communication with deaf patients. There’s a long list of available aids, including an interpreter.

Charlotte Stewart is an advocate for the disabled in North Texas with REACH — Resource Centers on Independent Living. She says if Valdez communicates best via an interpreter, then that’s the kind of assistance that should have been provided.

“For the hospital to deny providing her a sign language interpreter when she’s in there for medical treatment is a big, serious mistake on their part,” Stewart said.

Because of the communication barrier, Valdez said a security guard ultimately removed her from the emergency room. That kept her from being treated.

A spokesperson for Doctors Hospital told WFAA that for privacy reasons, she could not speak about Valdez’ case. She did say the hospital is not required to provide an interpreter, but does — as a policy — provide a tablet-type device for typing.

In a follow-up call, spokesperson Theresa Lewis said the option of an online interpreter was made available to Valdez, and even though the hospital does not have a formal complaint in hand, it will reach out to Valdez to investigate

“I need help,” Valdez said. “There was no communication happening there, and it affects all deaf clientele.”

Valdez hopes that by raising her concern publicly, it might make things better during her next visit to the hospital in her neighborhood… and maybe for other deaf people, too.



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