Suing for Equity in Services: Early last month in Florida, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Inc., together with the National Association of the Deaf, filed a lawsuit seeking accessible medical services for Deaf citizens in the state. The lawsuit charges Humana Insurance and the Florida Department of Financial Services with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Humana providers allegedly refused to provide ASL interpreters for Deaf patients. Humana also refused to accept VRS calls from Deaf members.
A National Issue: Although this lawsuit was filed in Florida, the issue is a national one and the results will carry implications across the country. Very few insurance companies reimburse providers for the cost of interpreters during appointments and very few providers willingly pay for interpreters. Deaf consumers are left with few options for accessible medical and mental health services. It is also typical for insurance companies to give Deaf members a list of in-network providers who claim to be fluent in ASL, but who, in reality, have often taken only one or two ASL classes and have minimal or no knowledge of ASL and Deaf culture. When Deaf consumers voice complaints, both the insurance company and the providers point fingers at each other, refusing to take responsibility.
Best Solution: So, what is the ideal solution for meeting Deaf consumers’ needs? We offer the following guidelines to insurance companies:
1. When it’s an option, make it possible for the Deaf person to see a Deaf provider fluent in ASL. This should be a priority and the preferred standard of care over matching the Deaf consumer with a hearing therapist who signs or a hearing therapist and an interpreter. If this means authorizing out-of-network services, do it. Research shows that psychotherapy sessions and certain types of medical consultations can be conducted successfully using videophones and webcams. Studies also show that Deaf people prefer working with Deaf therapists and that utilizing interpreters in psychotherapy sessions not the best option.
2. Hire a consultant to evaluate in-network providers’ ASL skills. Require hearing providers to hold national sign language interpreting certification from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) or meet an advanced level of ASL proficiency. If providers fail to meet this standard, remove them from the list of providers who are qualified to work with Deaf consumers.
3. Require in-network providers to provide ASL interpreters, period. If they refuse, take them off the provider list.
Mia Orr, Consultant
Senate Health Committee
State Capitol, Room 2191
Sacramento, CA 95814
Dear Honorable Senate Health Committee Members:
Alternative Solutions Center, a Deaf-owned and operated private psychotherapy practice, OPPOSES Assembly Bill 2072 (AB 2072).
AB 2072 hurts Deaf children and adults by ignoring all the research and testimonials that show just how critical American Sign Language is for healthy intellectual, emotional, and social development and well-being. As psychotherapists who work on a daily basis with Deaf people who were deprived of American Sign Language as children, we can tell you that this is one of the most painful and inhumane experiences anyone could have. The failure to give Deaf children the opportunity to converse and learn in their natural, visual language is a form of communication abuse.
Vote NO on AB 2072.
Candace A. McCullough, PhD
Sharon M. Duchesneau, LCPC
cc: Patti Durr
We are writing with three requests. We ask that Purple:
1. Withdraw financial sponsorship from DeafRead/DeafVIDEO.TV (DVTV)
2. Remove the Purple logo/banner from both of these websites
3. Close the Purple Communications b/vlog accounts at DeafRead/DVTV
We ask you to do so because DeafRead/DVTV editors:
1. Direct online traffic to b/vlogsites where children are attacked or used as pawns to get back at adults
2. Publish links to b/vlogs that make threats to people’s employment
3. Refuse to take corrective action by removing certain links after their inappropriate content is brought to their attention, even when they DO have the ability to remove these links
Purple should take notice of the fact that people have been raising concerns about DeafRead/DVTV’s passive participation in cyber-bullying for the past three years.
We cannot imagine that Purple, a well-known VRS company, condones any of the above-mentioned practices. As a sponsor, Purple has a responsibility to educate itself about how DeafRead/DVTV operates and determine the ramifications of its continued association with DeafRead/DVTV.
Will Purple stand behind DeafRead/DVTV’s destructive online practices? Or will Purple do the right thing and make it clear to DeafRead/DVTV that it does not endorse cyber-bullying?
We trust you will do the right thing. Thank you.
Candace A. McCullough, PhD
Sharon M. Duchesneau, LCPC
ASL = English: ASC is pleased to see the trend of more Deaf professionals taking advantage of the internet and technology to formally present their ideas and research in ASL. Traditionally, even in environments proclaiming bilingualism, there has been a longstanding, often unspoken, message that English still reigns superior to ASL. Compare how readily academic articles published in English receive credibility and status, while lectures and videos delivered in ASL are frequently viewed as less serious or scholarly. Bilingualism may refer to two languages, but in many so-called bilingual Deaf educational institutions it has not always been the case that both are accorded equal respect.
Double Standard: What is one to make of the fact that at Gallaudet University last Friday, a hearing doctoral candidate presented a dissertation defense in spoken English rather than ASL? The student spoke to an audience that included Deaf students and professors, as well as hearing students who are planning on careers working with Deaf people. This reflects a lack of an institutional commitment to honoring ASL, something that should be a minimal expectation at the premier higher education institution for Deaf people. This concession to a hearing, English-speaking graduate student, whose choice to forgo presenting in ASL did little to convey a sense of respect and courtesy, is a sad commentary on the university’s double standard. What such concessions are ever made to Deaf students, who have no choice but to write their dissertations in English, a second language for many? Imagine the reaction if a Deaf student made a request to do a dissertation entirely in ASL! Hearing students can cite insufficient fluency or discomfort in using their second-language ASL in front of an audience, but Deaf students can never opt out of having to use their second-language English to meet their program requirements.
Academic ASL: Without a doubt, Deaf people have been proving that academic ideas, once erroneously believed to be “too complicated” or “too abstract” to be explained in ASL, can be presented perfectly well in ASL. Check out the late and widely-respected Dr. Larry Fleischer’s elegant ASL lecture for a shining example of one of the earliest academic ASL presentations. Take a look at the promising new online Deaf Studies Digital Journal for another example of ASL in academia. There are many more examples online. Please feel free to share your favorites here.
ASC would like to thank Raychelle Harris, who was one of the first people to reference and cite an ASC vlog in a published paper. We also appreciate the many people who have requested permission to show our vlogs for different workshops, classes, and conferences. This is the type of respect and acknowledgement that all ASL vlogs and videos deserve.
To cite: Duchesneau, S. (2009). ASL in Academia? ASC on the Couch. Retrieved (date retrieved), from http://www.ascdeaf.com/blog/?p=498.
Vlog Summary: New research findings related to sports psychology and child development have resulted in more progressive-thinking schools adopting no-cut policies when it comes to their athletic programs. Deaf schools, with their unique responsibility of providing academic and athletic education opportunities to Deaf students, should follow suit and allow all interested students to participate in their athletic programs. Cut policies are outdated and harmful.
In this vlog, Sharon M. Duchesneau reviews 11 myths and facts about no-cut policies for school sports programs, drawing on an article published by college professors and researchers, Dr. Stephen C. Jefferies and Dr. Vincent M. Nethery. For those who may prefer to read the article quickly, it can be accessed by clicking on the link below.