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...

NAD Lawsuit Against Harvard and MIT Moves Forward, Obligation to ensure equal treatment applies in emerging technologies

November 4, 2016 — Judge Mark G. Mastroianni of the District Court of Massachusetts denied Massachusetts Institute for Technology’s (MIT) and Harvard University’s motions to dismiss the National Association of the Deaf’s (NAD) and other named plaintiffs’ complaint that the institution discriminates against deaf and hard of hearing people by failing to caption the vast and varied array of online content they make available to the general public, including massive open online courses (MOOCs). Today’s decision affirms that plaintiffs’ case will be going forward. MIT and Harvard suffered a huge blow to their positions that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act do not require the institution to provide closed captions on its online videos that it makes open and available to the world. Plaintiffs are represented by Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC), NAD, and Disability Law Center (DLC) in the lawsuit against MIT, and by CREEC, NAD, and DLC in the lawsuit against Harvard. Arlene Mayerson, DREDF Directing Attorney, said, “I am thrilled that we have made this important inroad into ensuring that 21st century online education is accessible to all.” Today’s decision rejected Harvard’s and MIT’s arguments that they were “entitled to statutory exemptions for accommodations that impose an unreasonable financial or administrative burden, or require a fundamental change in the good at issue.” Judge Mastroianni noted Defendants’ arguments were “inappropriate for resolution on a motion to dismiss. A motion to dismiss addresses the plausibility of a plaintiff’s claims, not the strength of a defendant’s affirmative defenses.” Tim Fox, CREEC Co-Executive Director,...

CREECster Julie Wilensky Presents at PELA Brown Bag

Julie Wilensky, Director of CREEC’s California office, and Jacob Richards of Keller Rohrback, LLP presented at a brown bag sponsored by Colorado’s Plaintiff Employment Lawyer Association on the subject of Advocating for the Rights of LGBT Employees. The lunch was held at Rathod Mohamedbhai’s awesome new building, Laundry on Lawrence.  We all got a tour after the presentation.  Q and Tim check out RM’s excellent ramp: And we all appreciated the fantastic decor....

Presenting at Access and Ability’s Northern Colorado Leadership Gathering

I got to do one of my favorite things today:  teach about disability rights and enforcement to a group of enthusiastic advocates and future disability rights leaders.  Under the leadership of Menda Ide, the nonprofit group Access and Ability holds an annual leadership conference for up and coming disability rights advocates in Northern Colorado.  I was privileged to present today, including a whirlwind tour of the ADA, Section 504 and the Fair Housing Act, and of course, surveying and enforcement — with props! Thanks, Menda, for the chance to work with this terrific...

Colorado Gives Day and CREEC

For the first time ever, CREEC is participating in Colorado Gives Day, an annual statewide movement to celebrate and increase philanthropy in Colorado through online giving! Colorado Gives Day begins at 12:00 a.m. MST on Tuesday, December 8, 2015 (perfect for all you late-night online shoppers). We ask that you please add CREEC to your list of organizations receiving a year-end donation. Over the past two years, CREEC has grown into an organization with six attorneys and offices in two states! We’ve expanded our Medical Communication Access Project, filing two lawsuits and successfully settling one of them. We’ve started a testing program to make sure businesses and organizations aren’t discriminating against people who use wheelchairs, are deaf or hard of hearing, are blind, or are transgender. We’ve pursued – and successfully settled! – cases with the Colorado Department of Corrections to fight for inmates’ rights to outdoor exercise. We’ve intervened on behalf of apartment residents and veterans facing discrimination for using service animals. For a more complete picture of what we’ve accomplished in 2015, feel free to scroll through the CREECblog or view our Cases page. We can continue with this important work – and expand into new areas of civil rights education and litigation – only with your help. Please consider a donation to CREEC on Colorado Gives Day this year. You can make your gift via paper check or by using our Colorado Gives...