Under an agreement announced by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services, individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing will be provided equal access to a nursing and rehabilitation facility in New York State and will be provided interpretation services when necessary for effective communication.

Ramapo Manor Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Suffern, NY, and OCR entered into an agreement following an investigation of a disability discrimination complaint, according to OCR. OCR determined that Ramapo discriminated against a deaf patient on the basis of disability when it revoked the patient’s admission to its facility after learning that he would need interpreter services. OCR also found that Ramapo discriminated against the patient based on his disability when it denied his request for interpreter services. OCR’s investigation was conducted under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by recipients of federal financial assistance.

"It is important to ensure that entities that receive HHS funds not only provide the required aids and services to a patient with a disability in their care, but also, in the first instance, simply open the door to let that person in," said Georgina Verdugo, the OCR director, in a statement. "Without that, the right to an equal opportunity to participate in federally funded programs means nothing."

In the agreement, Ramapo will no longer exclude anyone from its program based on the person’s disability or need for an auxiliary aid or service, such as a sign language interpreter. Ramapo also agreed to provide auxiliary aids and services that are necessary for effective communication, assess, and consult with patients to determine the appropriate auxiliary aid or service, provide notice of its nondiscrimination and auxiliary aids and services policies to patients and referring facilities, and develop a grievance procedure for patients to file complaints.

Click here for additional resources on effective communication with deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals.

[Source: HHS]