Child-wel­fare agency to bet­ter help the deaf

Re­sources will in­clude sign-lan­guage in­ter­preters, other tools

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - BY JUSTIN MOYER moy­erj@wash­post.com

The District’s child wel­fare agency has agreed to pro­vide deaf clients with tech­nol­ogy for mak­ing phone calls and with sign-lan­guage in­ter­preters dur­ing home vis­its and in­ter­views with fos­ter or adop­tive par­ents.

The agree­ment came as part of a set­tle­ment with the U.S. De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices’ Of­fice of Civil Rights, which de­ter­mined that the child wel­fare agency had failed to a pro­vide an in­ter­preter for a deaf client and fam­ily mem­bers dur­ing an adop­tion pro­ceed­ing in 2007.

“Peo­ple have the right to equal­ity when com­mu­ni­cat­ing with hu­man ser­vice providers,” Leon Rodriguez, head of the civil rights of­fice, said in a re­cent state­ment. “My of­fice will con­tinue to en­force the law to en­sure that agen­cies com­ply with their obli­ga­tions.”

Mindy Good, a spokes­woman for the child wel­fare agency, which serves fos­ter and adop­tive chil­dren in the District, said she was not aware of a pat­tern of dis­crim­i­na­tion against the deaf.

“To­day, when peo­ple need lan­guage trans­la­tion — they need sign-lan­guage trans­la­tion, they need any of those ac­com­mo­da­tions — we have far and away more re­sources,” she said.

Good noted that the District’s Of­fice of Dis­abil­ity Rights, which the child wel­fare agency uses for sign-lan­guage in­ter­pre­ta­tion, did not ex­ist in 2007.

“The wheels of jus­tice at the fed­eral level in an agency just don’t turn very fast,” she said.

The child wel­fare agency is not the only part of the D.C. government that has faced crit­i­cism over its ser­vices to the deaf. Ear­lier this month, a deaf man in­car­cer­ated by the D.C. De­part­ment of Cor­rec­tions sued the city, al­leg­ing he did not con­sis­tently have an in­ter­preter while in­car­cer­ated.

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