A teacher took on a major hospital in South Florida to ensure deaf patients are treated fairly. Now, her efforts are paying off in more ways than one.
NBC 6 first reported on Rose Adams’ story after she filed a lawsuit against the Cleveland Clinic in Weston. In an exclusive interview with NBC 6, Rose described six frightening days at the hospital with no idea what was being said because she said they didn’t provide a sign language interpreter during her treatment.
“The second day I was screaming, screaming. I wanted to go home,” Rose said. "They were giving me drugs that I was allergic to."
In the lawsuit, she claims the hospital violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Cleveland Clinic was eventually fined $15,000 and required to provide additional training for staff, which the court confirmed it had done.
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The funds from the settlement were directed to the Center for Independent Living of Broward, a nonprofit that offers assistance to people with disabilities.
Ginel Auguste, a father of four who is deaf, watched our story about Rose. His wife and brother are also deaf.
“Oh yes, I saw it and I was just really shocked that happened,” Auguste said. “There’s a lot of times that this happens to deaf people around the U.S. and a lot of deaf people complain that there’s no interpreting services provided for them and a lot of companies and businesses don’t want to provide access for (the) deaf. You know, it's equality for us."
Heather Andrews and Lasia Rowe are two of the interpreters who assist Auguste and others at the Center for Independent Living of Broward. They said Rose’s lawsuit is helping the center provide much-needed services. For instance, they explained they need more interpreters who can sign in different languages since there is no universal sign language.
Mai Gore coordinates the deaf services for the center.
"Well, I’m glad the Cleveland Clinic was able to provide some funding for us to help to provide interpreting services for deaf clients,” Gore said. “Their personal life will be improved so they can socialize with the community."
Michelle Alexander also comes to the center for help. When it comes to the new funds, she said, ''That’s amazing. I have a resource to be able to hire interpreters or get interpreters for any events I may go to — a wedding, a funeral, a party."
While these services are available, this doesn’t mean government agencies or businesses still don’t have a responsibility to make an interpreter available.
Matt Dietz, who is Rose’s attorney, recommended the judge award the funds to the center.
“It’s fantastic,” he said.
He hopes what happened will send a message to other South Florida companies.
“They should do it because these folks are customers. They should be treated the same way that you or I would expect to be treated when you go into a store or a hospital, or see a lawyer, or see an accountant. You should be able to communicate.”
The Cleveland Clinic sent a statement, saying “The Certificate of Compliance filed in this case confirms our commitment to ensure that patients who are deaf and hard of hearing are appropriately informed during their course of treatment and are also informed of their right to obtain the services of an American Sign Language interpreter. We believe that we have fully complied with the court’s expectations, and we consider the case resolved. We remain committed to providing all patients with compassionate, high-quality care."
Rose didn’t expect her efforts would end up aiding so many others in the deaf community.
If you need services from the Center for Independent Living of Broward, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 954-320-6860 - which is a special line for the deaf.