Education Report:  Sign Language Interpreters in Medical Settings

Imagine getting sick in, say, rural China. You’ve studied a bit of Chinese and decided to travel there. Then your stomach starts to hurt. A lot. No one at the hospital — from doctors to receptionists — speaks English, so when you try to communicate your symptoms in English, no one understands. They talk to you in Chinese and you understand the basics:  lie down here; where does it hurt? But you need to tell them your medical history; they need to tell you their diagnosis and proposed treatment. Now imagine you’ve come to the hospital in extreme pain, or severely injured in a car accident, or in labor. This is the experience Deaf people encounter every day in their own country in hospitals and doctors’ offices:  they need to explain their symptoms and history and to understand their diagnosis and treatment options in their native language — American Sign Language (ASL) — while medical personnel attempt to communicate with them using written notes or lip reading.  Since ASL is a completely different language from English — and the latter generally a second language for most Deaf people — this puts the Deaf patient in the same situation as the traveler above.  And written notes? Even if you’re fluent in English, imagine conducting your next doctor’s appointment — or emergency room visit or childbirth — by writing notes back and forth with doctors, nurses, and technicians; now imagine (if you’re native English speaker) writing back and forth in French or Russian. Imagine being a doctor and trying to obtain informed consent under these circumstances. Medical personnel should be insisting...

What’s IDAP Been Up To Lately?

Since its formation in September 2018, CREEC’s Immigration Detention Accountability Project (IDAP) has fought to assert the rights of and improve conditions for hundreds of immigrants in ICE custody in Colorado and across the nation and is laying the groundwork for future litigation efforts. Under Director Liz Jordan’s leadership, IDAP has focused on three key areas thus far: legal challenge of conditions of confinement in immigration detention centers, legal challenge of discrimination against detained immigrants with disabilities, and education and outreach on detention conditions and treatment of immigrants with disabilities. Recent projects include procurement of previously unreleased documents relating to life-threatening treatment of detainees in Colorado and California; cessation of improper use of federal prisons for immigrant detention in California; multiple advocacy efforts; and educational initiatives to raise public awareness of the conditions facing immigrant detainees and their civil rights. In an  ongoing transparency litigation case in Colorado, IDAP procured previously unreleased ICE documents relating to deaths of immigrants in detention and treatment of people with disabilities. These documents had never before been made public and are part of a larger effort to hold ICE accountable to the public through the release of information. Last summer, IDAP also filed a federal class action lawsuit in Victorville, California on behalf of asylum seekers who were being illegally held in a federal prison despite not having criminal convictions. As a result of CREEC’s lawsuit, the U.S. government’s practice of holding detainees who have not committed a crime was discontinued at this prison. Additionally, IDAP offers civil rights consultation to lawyers for immigrants with disabilities, represents people in ICE custody, advocates for...