CREEC in Court: Deaf Dad Sues Pueblo’s Parkview Medical Center Over Failure to Provide Interpreter

George Baca filed a lawsuit today against Parkview Medical Center of Pueblo, CO in the U.S. District Court in Colorado. The lawsuit asserts that Parkview denied Mr. Baca, who is deaf and communicates using American Sign Language, a sign language interpreter for several days while his minor daughter was receiving emergency care after being struck by a car on July 6, 2013.

Baca, who has been deaf since childhood, uses American Sign Language as his primary means of communication and does not read or write in English with fluency. After his daughter was taken to Parkview, Baca immediately asked for a sign language interpreter so he could stay informed of his daughter’s critical condition. Despite requesting an interpreter multiple times, Baca was not provided with an interpreter until several days into his daughter’s hospital stay. During that time, medical staff communicated with Baca about his daughter’s serious injuries solely via handwritten notes.

“Taking care of my children is my priority, so it was incredibly stressful to be so powerless about my daughter’s treatment,” said Mr. Baca. “The entire experience – of not knowing what was happening to my daughter and not being able to communicate with her doctors – was very traumatic.”

The Complaint asserts that Parkview failed to provide Baca with effective communication during this critical situation – an action that constitutes discrimination based on Baca’s disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Rehabilitation Act, and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act.

“In the middle of an already scary situation, Mr. Baca’s requests for an interpreter were repeatedly ignored, leaving him in the dark concerning his daughter’s condition. Can you imagine what it must be like for a parent to be denied the ability to ask questions and get information about his or her child’s treatment after a life-threatening accident?” said Amy Robertson, Co-Executive Director at the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, who is representing the plaintiff in this matter.

“Unfortunately, this type of story is hardly rare in the deaf community,” said Jennifer Pfau, the president of the Colorado Association of the Deaf. “Interpreting services for deaf and hard of hearing patients and families of patients are often neglected, leading to frustration and confusion.”

Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, the Colorado Association of the Deaf and the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition are collaborating on a Medical Communications Access Project designed to address these failings.

“We’re hoping that this case will be an important step in remedying this recurring violation,” said Robertson.

The case, Baca v. Parkview Medical Center, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on February 9, 2015.

To learn more about the case from The Colorado Independent‘s Susan Greene, click here