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Accessible Health Care: 6. What Are Your Rights Transcript

[Rania Johnson is signing.]

So, what are your rights to communications assistance?

[Photo of Rick Macpherson]

Rick Macpherson, an attorney with the Minnesota Disability Law Center who has worked with many deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing clients, offered this explanation. 

[Rick Macpherson is speaking while Rania signs]

[Text on screen: Auxiliary aids and services]

Federal and state laws require health care facilities to provide deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing patients with what the law calls “auxiliary aids and services.”

[Text on screen: Access to a qualified interpreter, service or device]

This means that medical clinics, urgent care clinics, hospitals and hospital emergency rooms are required to provide a person who is deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing with access to a qualified interpreter, service or device so that they have an opportunity to learn about their health care situation and treatment plans and get their questions answered. 

[Text on screen: Interpreter, VRI, ALD, CART]

A health care facility can arrange to have a qualified interpreter come to the clinic or hospital, can contact a video remote interpreting service, provide an ALD or assistive listening device OR arrange for computer-assisted real-time transcription (CART) captions. 

[Text on screen: Effective communication]

The law also says that you have the right to “effective communication.” That is, you have the right to ask for and receive the kind of communication assistance that’s effective for you and your needs. Whatever method the hospital provides for communication -- effective communication must be the result.

[Visual of the exterior of a hospital]

For example, a hospital or clinic can’t decide that writing notes is an adequate method for communications in all instances. This wouldn’t be an effective form of communication for someone whose primary language is ASL. If you need to communicate most effectively through an ASL interpreter, then you have the right to have an ASL interpreter, either in person or remotely through video technology. 

The bottom-line is that you have the right to learn about your situation and the health care facility is obligated to provide the type of access that meets that need.

[Narrator is signing and speaking]

So, what does all this mean in the real world?

[Rick Macpherson continues speaking while an interpreter signs]

[Text on screen: 1. Respect and dignity]

First and foremost, it means that you have the right to be treated with the same respect and dignity that other patients receive. 

This is true whether you’re the patient yourself or a deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing person who's participating in someone else’s care, such as if you’re the parent of a child who needs emergency medical care. Or you're a patient's spouse or partner.

[Text on screen: 2. Communications support]

Second, you have the right to have the kind of communications support that you would normally use to gather information and make important decisions. 

If you rely on ASL to communicate, ask for an ASL interpreter. The hospital should provide an ASL interpreter, although this doesn’t mean that the interpreter has to be on-site.

[Text on screen: 3. Interpreter understands medical terms]

Third, your right to effective communication means that you have the right to an interpreter that you can work with and who understands medical terms and can interpret them for you. 

If you don’t think the interpreter is doing a good job, you should tell the hospital you don't understand and that you request another interpreter. 

[Text on screen: 4. Timely access to communications services]

Fourth, you have the right to have access to communications services in a timely fashion. 

In the Twin Cities area, the standard that you can expect is that an interpreter should arrive within two hours or less. 

If you live in a smaller community where local qualified interpreters may be harder to find, it may take longer. 

[Text on screen: 5. Regular access to a qualified interpreter]

Finally, you should expect regular access to a qualified interpreter so that you can better understand your situation and treatment. 

If you’re hospitalized, it also means that you should expect regular access to a qualified interpreter or interpreter service throughout your hospital stay. 

As you heard, this was a major challenge for Cuong. Returning to health after a medical emergency is a team effort between you and your medical providers. 

Good two-way communication is an important part. 

You should expect to have access to a qualified interpreter when you’re undergoing medical tests, participating in therapies and getting updates on your medical condition.

[Text on screen: Things you should not expect]

There are also some things you should not expect.

You shouldn’t expect to have access to a qualified ASL interpreter 24/7 for every conversation or communication that occurs. That’s unrealistic and the law does not require an interpreter or other aid for every conversation that you might have in the hospital. It only requires interpreters and other aids for important communications about your medical care and treatments. 

Other conversations, such as a request for a pillow, can be made in writing. 

You shouldn’t expect a qualified interpreter to arrive on-site within minutes. 

Again, that’s unrealistic.

You shouldn’t expect a hospital or clinic to have a qualified interpreter on staff. Although some hospitals do have interpreters on staff, they are not obligated to do that.

And, you shouldn’t expect the hospital or clinic to know that you need an interpreter or the type of communications assistance you will need. It’s your responsibility to make your needs known.

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