Deaf Patients To Doctors - 'Sign or Be Sued'

The Valley Association of Independent Living said they've received countless complaints from deaf patients that some doctors are not providing sign language interpreters for medical visits.

"With an interpreter it's definitely understood what is being said, and what is taking place," said Brooke Hernandez, manager of deaf services at VAIL.

Hernandez said many times doctors try to get away with writing notes, so that they do not have to pay for an interpreter.

"I explain to them that American sign language and the English language is totally different language," said Hernandez.

They said the deaf have a right to an interpreter during medical visits, and Corinna Spencer Scheurich, an attorney for the South Texas Civil Rights Project, said that right is protected by law.

"The law is pretty clear that you have to provide effective communication to people who are deaf and hard of hearing," said Scheurich.

She said if they don't comply, they'll be slapped with a lawsuit.

Felix Rocha, Jr. said he serves as his mother's interpreter often.

"It was tiring because I had to stay there for a long time," said Rocha.

Rocha is talking about a time his mom was in the hospital, and she was promised an interpreter but never got one.

"And when she was by herself at the hospital, nobody helped her at all," said Rocha. "When she started vomiting and vomiting, nobody helped her."

Rocha said he thinks if there was an interpreter there, that person could have helped his mother communicate to the nurses that she needed help.

It's stories like these that prompted VAIL and the South Texas Civil Rights Project to send doctors a pledge to provide equal access to the deaf and hard of hearing, and they said, if the doctors do not comply, they'll sue.

They've already sued 4 different locations today.