DRM Intervention Ensures Equal Access for the Deaf at Maine Dental Practice
As a result of a legal intervention by Disability Rights Maine, a Maine dental practice which discriminated against a Deaf woman instituted a new ADA policy to ensure equal access for the Deaf, underwent ADA training for all staff regarding rights of the Deaf, and underwent monitoring by the Maine Human Rights Commission to ensure that discrimination does not happen again, in addition to individual relief provided to the woman.
A Deaf woman contacted Disability Rights Maine after a dental practice refused to provide her with effective communication, an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, to be present for her minor son’s dental appointments. The woman attempted to bring her child to the dentist and requested an interpreter so that she could understand what care her child needed. The practice refused her request, based on their policy of not providing ASL interpreters.
DRM attorney Kristin Aiello, who represented the woman, stated, “In a previous appointment with her child, our client attempted to communicate with the practice in writing, which proved to be ineffective. For her child’s next appointment, she attempted to work out the problem by providing the practice with resources for hiring an interpreter for her next appointment. The practice ignored this request.”
The Maine Human Rights Commission concluded that there were reasonable grounds to believe discrimination occurred. “The finding in this case was that the failure to provide an ASL interpreter in these circumstances is illegal under state law,” a DRM attorney Kristin Aiello said. “The law is clear that health care providers must consult with the person about what auxiliary aid or service will provide effective communication. This did not happen. Instead, the practice made a unilateral decision without consulting with our client. As a result, our client was denied effective communication.”
After reasonable grounds were found, DRM attorney Aiello represented the client through the conciliation process at the Maine Human Rights Commission where she successfully negotiated a settlement which included policy revision, training, and reporting and monitoring over two years to ensure compliance with its nondiscrimination policy.