Spencer v. Providence St. Joseph Health
In July 2022, DRA filed a class action lawsuit in the Western District of Washington against Providence St. Joseph Health and Western HealthConnect for their consistent failure to ensure effective communication for d/Deaf patients seeking medical care at Providence’s Seattle-area facilities. Read the complaint here.
Providence is the largest health care provider in Washington with hospitals, clinics, senior care centers, hospice, and home health services in communities—large and small—across the state. However, d/Deaf patients who seek healthcare services at Providence locations in the Puget Sound region have frequently not received the in-person American Sign Language (“ASL”) interpretation that they have requested. Instead, Providence facilities routinely rely on Video Remote Interpreting (“VRI”)—the use of video conferencing technology to access an off-site interpreter to provide real-time interpreting services for conversations between hearing people and people who are deaf or have hearing loss—without sufficient technical capacity or staff training to make this an effective means of communicating. In addition, Providence staff have demonstrated a lack of knowledge in the appropriate and effective use of interpretation services. As a result, people with hearing disabilities who seek medical care at Providence facilities are subjected to unequal and demeaning treatment.
DRA represents three individuals—Kate Spencer, Jason Viglianco, and Mandy Rodriguez—who are Deaf and use ASL as their primary method of communication. All three have experienced repeated discrimination at Providence facilities due to their hearing disabilities. Despite clear requests for in-person ASL interpreters well in advance of appointments at multiple Providence facilities, Providence consistently failed to secure ASL interpreters for their appointments. Where VRI was offered it was an insufficient substitute, marked by blurry and frozen screens and repeated disconnection.
Providence’s failure to provide equal access to d/Deaf patients violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law 32 years ago today. DRA and the plaintiffs seek to correct this discrimination, and compel Providence to create effective policies and practices, including providing qualified sign language interpreters and other necessary accommodations to all d/Deaf patients who seek medical care at Providence facilities.
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