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Qualified Interpreters for
Deaf relatives of Hearing Patients

Hospitals should provide certified, qualified interpreters not only for Deaf patients but also to Deaf relatives of hearing patients. If hearing relatives have direct and immediate access to what the physicians and staff are saying, so should Deaf family members. Most hospitals have traditionally refused to provide interpreters for Deaf persons who are not themselves patients, thus excluding them from briefings and preventing their being able to ask questions and get direct answers. We consider this an injustice.

Video Remote Interpreting (VRI)

Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) should never be used for emergency situations such as childbirth or trauma. VRI is acceptable at front desks and in non-emergency situations, to tide a Deaf patient over until the interpreter arrives, but should not be used as a cheaper substitute.

Equal Access in Scheduling

Equal access in scheduling—no more unreasonable delays in scheduling appointments. Instead of delaying booking a Deaf person’s appointment until the first available interpreter comes in—a delay that can run into several weeks or months—book the Deaf patient first, then book the interpreter. Hearing patients do not have to wait for the next available interpreter. Deaf patients deserve scheduling equality.

Hospitals serving smaller populations should not feel compelled to hire deaf social workers. If the situation warrants, and if the local Deaf community requests, the hospital can appoint a Deaf social worker or have one on call.

The euphemism "Hearing-Impaired"

The euphemism hearing-impaired should be removed from circulation and replaced with Deaf and hard-of-hearing. We request that all hospitals, clinics, EMT companies, and providers of medical services incorporate this into their training as a part of basic awareness and communication policies. We request that hearing-impaired be removed from official Websites, departmental communications, patient-information leaflets, guidelines, and memos. Staff dealing with Deaf patients should not write hearing-impaired on their records, but Deaf. Hearing-impaired is a judgmental term that incorporates negative framing, categorizing deaf people in terms of malfunctioning or broken auditory machinery. Deaf is a neutral and accurate term.

No hospital, clinic, or medical-service provider should ever use the terms deaf-mute or deaf-and-dumb. Ever. The same goes for euphemisms such as hearing-challenged.

Deaf Social Workers

In larger hospitals serving communities with large Deaf populations, we ask that they hire Deaf social workers to evaluate the situations and needs of Deaf patients. The Deaf social worker can function as a liaison between the Deaf patient and hospital to prevent disastrous misunderstandings and miscommunication, can evaluate the patient’s communication skills and linguistic preferences (e.g., if s/he feels most comfortable with a Certified Deaf Interpreter working in tandem with a regular interpreter), and can enable the hospital to get a clear idea of his or her wishes, such as a Do Not Resuscitate order.