February 17, 2015 – Hospitals and Sign Language Interpreter

The Virginia General Assembly is entering the final stretch now, with just over a week to go.

Delegate Bobby Orrock introduced a bill at the beginning of the session that would have required hospitals to provide sign language interpreters or other effective communication to patients who are deaf or hard of hearing. The original bill, HB 1956, stated that licensed hospitals must develop a process for identifying patients who are deaf or hard-of-hearing and must take steps to ensure that patients who are deaf or hard-of-hearing are able to

effectively communicate with health care providers involved in the patients’ care.

Recognizing that federal law, namely the Americans with Disabilities Act, already extends that protection to patients as well as to family members assisting with decision making, the Delegate amended his bill to require the Department of Health to develop guidelines for hospitals to comply with the ADA and to ensure that patients and family members are able to communicate effectively with health care providers. The Department of Health is required to report back to the General Assembly in December.

HB 1956, as amended, has been approved unanimously by passed both the House and the Senate.

The disAbility Law Center of Virginia is available to assist policy makers as they consider issues that affect persons with disabilities. Our mission is, through zealous and effective advocacy and legal representation, to protect and advance the legal, human and civil rights of people with disabilities, to combat and prevent abuse, neglect and discrimination, and to promote independence, choice and self-determination by persons with disabilities.