Contributed by Paul Welk
Orthopedic Institute of Pennsylvania ("OIP") and the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights recently settled a Complaint filed by a prospective patient who is deaf. The Complaint was filed after OIP declined the patient’s request for a sign language interpreter when he called to schedule an appointment to discuss a surgical procedure. The Office of Civil Rights said that OIP’s blanket policy of not providing sign language interpreters denied patients who required an interpreter an equal opportunity to have access to OIP’s programs and services, in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and its implementing regulations. The Settlement Agreement requires OIP to adopt policies and procedures approved by the Office of Civil Rights for insuring effective communications with patients who have impaired hearing, train staff to implement such policies, and submit reports to the Office of Civil Rights documenting its compliance with each provision of the settlement.