Deaf Rights

Persons who are deaf or hard of hearing have historically been subject to total exclusion from the mainstream of society due to communication barriers. Current federal law places a high burden on most public and private entities to provide auxiliary aides and services, including sign language interpreters, to those who need them.

Groundbreaking Cases

  • Silva  v. Baptist Health Systems – Finding that the standard of effective communication for the Deaf focuses on the equal opportunity to participating  in and obtaining equal access to programs and services of the hospital.  As stated by the Eleventh Circuit, the issue is “whether the deaf patient experienced an impairment in his or her ability to communicate medically relevant information with hospital staff. The focus is on the effectiveness of the communication, not on the medical success of the outcome.”
  • Sunderland v. Bethesda Hospitals – Finding that any staff member who has the authority to provide an auxiliary aid or service can lead to liability for intentional discrimination by the hospital.
  • Liese v. Indian River Medical Center – Permitting  damages for violation of the rights of a deaf couple in a hospital when the hospital intentionally refuses effective communication through a sign language interpreter. This was overruled by the United States Supreme Court in Cummings v. Premier Rehab Keller, P.L.L.C. in 2021, where the court found that damages for only economic damages are not covered under the ADA the Rehabilitaiton Act.
  • McCullum v. Orlando Regional Healthcare Sys. – Finding that a deaf patient must ask for an accommodation for liability under the ADA or Rehabilitation Act.
  • Nash v. Medina – Doctors have an obligation to treat deaf clients under the Rehabilitation Act

Disability Independence Group Blog articles on our cases

  • Deaf Inmates will Receive Services in Miami-Dade County Jails  – Disability Independence Group and Disability Rights Florida Resolve Lawsuit against Miami Dade Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to Provide Services to Deaf Inmates.  he Settlement requires Miami-Dade to timely provide qualified interpreters for all programs and services of the jails, including: booking, intake process, at classification hearings, medical or psychological treatment, disciplinary hearings, religious services, educational classes, Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or the equivalent, and interactions with staff that implicate an inmates’ due process rights.
  • Deaf Woman Denied Career Choice at Keiser University  – Katy Daniel-Rivera would like the opportunity to succeed in her chosen career and earn a license to be a Radiologic Technologist. With appropriate auxiliary aids and services, a person who is Deaf can perform any job. To deny a person that opportunity is discrimination.
  • Katy Daniel-Rivera wins $75,000 jury verdict from Keiser University On April 19, 2017, a jury of eight people, none of whom were deaf or knew anyone who was deaf, awarded Katy Daniel-Rivera $ 75,000 and found that she was subject to intentional discrimination based on disability because she was not provided the opportunity to enter into Keiser University’s Radiologic Technology program.
  • Deaf Mom-to-be gives Birth in the Wrong Hospital? – Cheylla Silva’s attempts to obtain interpreters for the birth of her daughter Zoey.
  • Are Deaf Women Entitled to Reproductive Choice? – Maura Mena was victimized by her failure to get an interpreter for any services provided by Planned Parenthood. Mena, like most Deaf women, are ignored in their attempts to obtain reproductive education and services.

 Blog Items

  • FAKE INTERPRETERS IN FLORIDA – When a Sign Language interpreter gestures in gibberish, it places the lives of the members of the Deaf community at risk. This must stop, and Florida must license and regulate sign language interpreters.
  • Domestic Violence and the Deaf – When you combine both reality of living in the Deaf community and the isolation as a result of being a victim of domestic violence, it is easy to understand why a Deaf victim of domestic violence takes up to seven times longer to leave his or her abuser than it would for a hearing victim.
  • Fair Housing Videos in American Sign Language –   DIG worked with the National Fair Housing Alliance on a joint project, funded by HUD, to create videos in America Sign Language (ASL).  We developed, wrote, filmed, and produced twelve videos on various fair housing and fair lending topics.  The videos are in ASL and have captioning.  Each video starts with a small vignette that sets up a fair housing/fair lending scenario and then explains the ramifications of the Fair Housing Act and other national laws that protect persons with disabilities. We created a website to host the videos and to be a resource center.
  • He’s Got the Moves  – Nyle DiMarco is without doubt a “triple threat.” His website even describes him as such,“Nyle DiMarco is an actor, model and spokesman.” No offense to whoever wrote his website, but they dropped the ball when they failed to include dancer, which makes him a quadruple threat. Currently, Nyle DiMarco is a contestant on Dancing with the Stars and he is a force to be reckoned with on the dance floor. DiMarco’s celebrity status, which landed him a spot on the show, is attributed to his acting career and winning season 22 of America’s Next Top Model.

Other Resources