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Deaf parents' claim over sign language failure reinstated


An appeals court has reinstated discrimination claims filed against a hospital by the deaf parents of a child with a brain tumor, who claimed the hospital failed to provide deaf interpreters for them for most of the time they needed it.

The four-month old daughter of Rolando and Miriam Perez was diagnosed with a brain tumor that required monthly treatment in January 2011, according to Friday's ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans in Rolando Perez; Miriam Perez v. Doctors Hospital at Renaissance Ltd.

Ms. Perez is completely deaf and communicates exclusively in American Sign Language, while Mr. Perez is completely deaf in his right ear and cannot hear well in his left, and ASL is his primary language, according to the ruling.

The Perezes allege that while Doctors Hospital in Edinburg, Texas, provided them with interpreters for a time period of 2013 through early 2014, during the periods 2011 through part of 2012, and again beginning in April 2014, they had problems, including interpreters failing to arrive.

The couple filed suit against the hospital in March 2013, charging it with violations of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which governs public accommodation of the disabled, and state laws

The hospital's executive vice president for nursing testified in a deposition that the hospital's ADA compliance policy for the hearing impaired was in need of revision, and that she was unable to find any training sessions that had taken place at the hospital related to addressing the needs of the hearing impaired.

The U.S. District Court in McAllen, Texas, however, dismissed the case, holding there was no “real and immediate threat of future harm.” A three-judge appeals court panel unanimously reinstated all the charges in its ruling Friday.

Ruling on the ADA charge, the appeals court said, “Mr. Perez's affidavit is evidence that the plaintiffs have experienced recent problems with (the hospital's) provision of auxiliary services.

“Furthermore, the evidence of (the hospital's) failure to revise its ADA compliance policy ,which it admits needs revision, and its lack of training on addressing the needs of the hearing impaired, creates a possible inference that the plaintiffs' problems with the provision of auxiliary services will continue in the future.”

The case was remanded for further proceedings.

In a ruling last week on behalf of a deaf job applicant, whose job offer was rescinded, an appeals court held that deaf employees are allowed to use alternative alerting devices to perform their job.

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