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Deaf Woman Fights Miami Hospital For Terp

Deaf News: Deaf woman fights Miami Hospital for interpreter in Florida.

MIAMI, FL -- Next week, next month or maybe next year -- she does not know exactly when -- Cheylla Silva will need to visit her local hospital again. And when that happens, Silva, who is Deaf, doesn't want to struggle just to communicate with doctors and nurses as she has the last two dozen times.

Silva communicates in American Sign Language, and she says she has labored to convey and comprehend the most basic information at Baptist Hospital Miami because the hospital has refused to provide an interpreter.

Instead, she has been directed to a Video Remote Interpreting system or VRI for communication. But the remote video service crashes, the feed can be choppy and it's hard to see when she's lying in a hospital bed with tubes in her arms or when a medical team has crowded into her room.

"Why does everything have to be a struggle?" Silva, 34, asked through an interpreter. "I just want to be able to communicate like anybody else."

On Wednesday, Silva was in federal court in Miami to argue that Baptist Hospital's refusal to provide a live interpreter violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. She filed the case against Baptist in 2014 along with John Paul Jebian, a Miami man who also is Deaf. A U.S. District Court judge dismissed the case a year later but Silva and Jebian are appealing.

The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division also weighed in on the case, filing a brief in support of Silva and Jebian's claims, and urging the federal appeals court to reverse the dismissal by U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. Williams.

The appeal centers on whether the remote video service -- which allows an interpreter to translate via video screen -- provides equal access and effective communication for a deaf patient as required by the ADA, said Matthew Dietz, an attorney with the Disability Independence Group, a nonprofit advocate for the disabled representing Silva and Jebian.

Dietz argued that system may work in some hospital settings, such as one-on-one meeting with a nurse or doctor, but it is ineffective and inadequate in others, such as during an MRI or X-ray, or during child birth or group therapy sessions.

He said Baptist's refusal to dedicate a high-speed, wide bandwidth Internet connection for the service also means blurry and choppy images, and repeated disconnections.

Deaf patients, Dietz said, "deserve to know what's happening to them."

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