We’ve come a long way since the days of serious oppression vented toward the deaf and hard of hearing population. Things such as interpreters and phones are now readily accessible in most situations. Most. So, when I found myself a patient at a nearby mental health facility, I was quite surprised at the workers’ attitude toward me and my deafness.
I should first let you know that this specific admission was, by far, not my first time being there. Not only are accommodations the law, but these people knew me by name when I got to my unit. You’d think they’d already know about my needs. You’d think it anyway….
The first main problem I had was the fact that several of the nurses didn’t believe that I couldn’t lipread. “All deaf people lipread. I think she’s faking for attention’s sake.” One nurse in particular took many people aside and said, “If you catch her lipreading, come tell me. I don’t believe she can’t.” Now, why would I fake something just to make my life more difficult than it already is?
After a few admissions, I think the staff finally “got it” that I need an interpreter, but in there lay another problem…cost.
Although they were usually good about calling for a ‘terp, the problem was when that ‘terp should leave. A ‘terp was scheduled from 9 till 12 and from 1 till 4 for groups, meeting with my doctor or case manager, etc. But they would often give me medicine to de-stress me and it made me unbelievably sleepy. However, when I would lay down to try to sleep it off for a half hour or so, they would send the interpreter home—saying that they didn’t want to have to pay for an interpreter if I wasn’t awake to use them.
But what about the doctor? They would send the ‘terp home and then, later, would say the doctor needs to talk with me or that group is happening and it was mandatory to go. What they didn’t understand was that ‘interpreters are paid on a two-hour basis. No matter when they actually left, the hospital would still have to pay for the full two hours at a time. So, sending them home didn’t save anyone money and it made me miss the doctor or nurse or any professional who needed to speak with me.
Another problem that was never rectified while I was in-patient, was the telephone. Technically, it would be best if they had a video phone hooked up for deaf patients to use. They said they “thought they had a TTY around here somewhere,” but, not only was it yet to be found, but no one I know has one anymore. They’re very outdated, So I would need to have my interpreter call on a regular land line phone, tell me what the person on the other end said and then let me speak into the phone and answer them. No privacy whatsoever. It was just wrong.