Washington, DC - Tuesday the Justice Department reached an agreement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with Adventist Health System Georgia Inc., d.b.a. AdventHealth-Gordon (Advent), a hospital in Calhoun, Georgia.

The settlement resolves a complaint by a deaf patient who alleged that despite her requests for an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter for her labor and delivery, Advent failed to provide an interpreter or any other communication aid or service. Instead, the patient alleged that she was forced to rely on lip reading and on her deaf companion, who tried to advocate for her even though she too had difficulty trying to understand and communicate with hospital staff. Because of Advent’s failure to provide an interpreter or other means of effective communication, the patient and companion were not able to get important information about a complication during the delivery, which created fear and confusion for both. Advent cooperated fully with the department’s investigation of this matter, which substantiated the allegations in the complaint.

“No patient should be denied the ability to communicate effectively with their nurse or doctor, especially when giving birth to a child,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This settlement reflects the Justice Department’s commitment to ensuring that people who are deaf and hard of hearing are not excluded from participating in their own health care due to a lack of communication aids or services.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Advent will advise patients and companions of their right to auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective communication, including a live qualified sign language interpreter, whether through video or on-site. The hospital will provide, at all reception areas, prompt communication via text, pen and paper, and the use of a handheld device to connect with a qualified interpreter. Advent will continue to assess communication needs and provide effective communication throughout the hospital visit. The hospital will modify its policies and practices, train its staff on the ADA and the terms of the agreement, and will periodically submit reports about its compliance with the agreement. In addition, Advent will pay $50,000 to the patient and $10,000 to the companion, who were both harmed by Advent’s actions.

This case was handled by the department’s Civil Rights Division. The department plays a central role in advancing the nation’s goal of equal opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities.