Deaf need support in hospitals
(The Special Life)
A short while ago, I had to bring in my son to the emergency room at our local hospital. Luckily, most of the intense part of the issue had passed for my son by the time we got there, but I still wanted to make sure he was okay, so we stayed to get assessed by the doctors. It was the middle of the night, and while we waited in line for the triage nurse, I made note of the people in front of us who apparently were deaf.
The three people in front of us were dressed in party clothes, and as it was Saturday night, I surmised that something had gone amiss during the festivities, though it wasn't immediately apparent what it was. I don't know sign language, but hoped that the triage nurse would at least. But alas, she didn't. Unfortunately, her level of discomfort with her lack of this ability translated into a rather harsh triage. The triage nurse unnecessarily raised her voice, and kept repeating the basic questions, and yet avoided looking at them directly. I felt embarrassed for everyone.
I was reminded of this incident recently by an article on July 25th in the Toronto Star that addressed the issue of lack of support for the deaf in our hospitals. In the article, the writer refers to a unanimous Supreme Court decision dating back to 1997 on this issue. "Where sign language interpreters are necessary for effective communication in teh delivery of medical services, the failure to provide them constitutes a denial of the Charter of Rights." (Eldridge v. British Columbia)
What a sad state of affairs that a deaf person had to resort to the Supreme Court to have their legitimate needs recognized. And yet, over 10 years later, there is still no requirement for hospitals to provide sign language interpreters.
To make matters excruciatingly worse, there is a severe shortage of sign language interpreters available. In my own city of Toronto, the article says that there are over 25,000 deaf people but only 2 interpreters available for emergencies. Two!!! What's wrong with this picture?
If ever there was a need for more skilled help, here it is. While this article only focused on the situation in Toronto, I don't doubt that the issue is repeated elsewhere in other major centres. Let us know what the situation is in your community, and what solutions have worked best.
To read the full article, go to: deaf-hospital-support.special-life.info
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