Denial of Reasonable Accommodation Results in Discrimination Charges – Residents with Hearing Disabilities

Mary Madison, RN, RAC-CT, CDP
Clinical Consultant – Briggs Healthcare®

Does your assisted living facility make reasonable accommodations for residents with hearing disabilities?

If the answer is no or you’re not sure, you’ll want to read about a Federal lawsuit recently filed against “at least 14 operators of assisted-living and nursing facilities in Arizona (who) unlawfully discriminate against prospective residents who are deaf.  The suit follows nearly two years of undercover inquiries. Testers enlisted by the non-profit contacted large-scale facilities in the Phoenix and Tucson areas requesting accommodations for a fictional deaf grandfather.  They asked about the availability of qualified American Sign Language interpreters and other aids that would allow the grandparent to communicate effectively, particularly in sensitive situations involving complex paperwork or medical needs.”

The Arizona Republic report of the undercover investigation and subsequent Federal action notes that State and federal laws forbid discrimination based on hearing disabilities and require facilities to make “reasonable accommodations” when they are necessary “to use and enjoy a dwelling.”  Fair-housing and disability-rights advocates consider a qualified interpreter a reasonable accommodation, particularly when “care involves complicated information.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), enacted in 1990, is a civil rights law that “prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.”   The ADA has 5 titles or sections that relate to different areas of public life.  Title III addresses Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities.

I encourage AL operators to review the Arizona Republic report as well as review Title III of the ADA to ensure your facility is compliant with Federal law as it pertains to individuals with hearing disabilities.  [To locate the references for hearing disabilities, do a search (<ctrl> F) once the Act is opened and type in the word hearing.]