Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Effective Communication Rights for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired

State Representative James Tokioka (Wailua Homestead, Hanamaulu, Lihue, Puhi, Old Koloa Town, Oma`o) applauded the actions taken by the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission and Disability and Communication Access Board that unveiled today public education materials on the legal obligations and rights of health care providers and patients. Under state and federal law, health care providers have an obligation to provide auxiliary aids and services for patients who have disabilities, including qualified sign language interpreters when needed to provide effective communication.

For Tokioka (who has a son, Pono, who is deaf), the hurdles and challenges of those who are deaf or who are hearing impaired and their families are ones he has personally experienced in his own life.

“I am personally grateful to the Executive Director William Hoshijo of the Hawai‘i Civil Rights Commission (HCRC), Executive Director Fancine Wai of the Disability & Communication Access Board (DCAB), Senator Josh Green, Kristine Pagano of DCAB and Delphine le Marie for taking this proactive approach to assisting our families who struggle to negotiate everyday activities that most of us give little thought to, like a visit to the doctor,” Tokioka said.

“I can’t tell you how important this initiative is for these families and what a difference it makes in their lives, when qualified sign language interpreters are available to help them communicate with their doctors during a normal visit or with a hospital attendant in an emergency situation, which can include serious life and death situations.”

“The deaf do not choose to be deaf, but must sometimes rely on others for help. Government is set up to help those who cannot help themselves, and this is a clear case when government should and must step in to help. If we can create greater awareness and better educate not only our health care providers but our entire community, we’ll help to create a better quality of life for these individuals and their families.”

One to two percent of people in Hawaii (approximately 16,000) are deaf, hard of hearing or deaf blind. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Hawaii state civil rights law, they have the right to effective communication in medical and health care services.

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