Access to information and communication with your health care provider is essential for your health and the health of your family and loved ones. Effective communication with your health care providers is critical to ensure that you have the information you need to make health care decisions. Doctors, nurses, dentists, specialists, therapists, and other health care providers must communicate effectively with you to provide appropriate, effective, quality health care services.
Federal disability discrimination laws secure your right to equal access, an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from health care services, and effective communication with health care providers. These laws include Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Each of these laws require health care providers to make their services accessible to deaf and hard of hearing people. This obligation applies to anyone the health care provider would communicate with – including patients, parents, guardians, companions, and members of the public. Health care providers must provide accommodations, such as qualified interpreters, real-time captioning (also called CART), assistive listening devices, or other auxiliary aids or services, when necessary to communicate effectively with people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Health care providers do not have to provide a specific type of accommodation if they can demonstrate that doing so would be an undue burden (a significant difficulty or expense). Requests for accommodations should be made in advance, when possible, so the health care provider has enough time to obtain the necessary accommodations. To demonstrate an undue burden, health care providers must show that the cost to provide the accommodation would significantly impact their practice and financial resources. Such a showing may be difficult for most health care providers. When an undue burden can be shown, the health care provider must provide alternative communication access services that would, to the maximum extent possible, ensure effective communication.
If your health care provider is unable to communicate effectively with you, or has questions about providing services to people who are deaf or hard of hearing, ask your health care provider to contact the NAD Law and Advocacy Center.
You may also use the NAD Memo Questions and Answers for Health Care Providers to inform your health care provider about your rights.
Additional information is provided about Hospitals and Other Health Care Facilities to help you advocate for effective communication access.
When you believe a health care provider has discriminated against you because you are deaf or hard of hearing, you have the right to file a complaint.