Resources for Patients and their Families

Sign Language Interpreters

A cancer diagnosis is difficult for anyone to deal with, but when the patient or someone in their family is deaf, it’s especially difficult to cope. This is due to the fact that it makes communicating with doctors and others who play an important role in the patient’s diagnosis and mesothelioma treatment difficult. Understanding what is occurring and what is about to occur – clearly and concisely – is essential in the treatment process and that often means that an interpreter may be needed.

It’s the Law

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act states that places of public accommodation, like hospitals and doctor’s offices, must “furnish auxiliary aids when necessary to ensure effective communication…” Hence, hospitals should have qualified American Sign Language interpreters available to deaf patrons or their families. Furthermore, the law applies throughout the hospital including “all hospital programs and services, such as emergency room care, inpatient and outpatient services, surgery, clinics, educational classes, and cafeteria and gift shop services.” The ADA notes that “wherever patients, their family members, companions, or members of the public are interacting with hospital staff, the hospital is obligated to provide effective communication.”

While most hospitals do indeed comply with these rules, especially the larger cancer facilities where asbestos cancer patients are often treated, it’s sometimes difficult to secure these services when needed, especially at certain times of the day and when more than one patient needs these services. Hence, many families decide to hire a private interpreter to ensure that their needs are met.

Finding a Private ASL Interpreter

The particulars of mesothelioma disease can be complicated and when it’s time to gather the details about your (or you loved one’s) treatment regimen, mesothelioma surgery, or other important issues, including the mesothelioma prognosis, you’ll want to be sure that you have an advocate. Therefore, a private interpreter who can be with you when you need them is a good idea.

Some patients may believe that having a family member interpret is ample, but due to the complex emotions involved with a cancer diagnosis, it’s usually better to have someone who can interpret clearly and impartially.

Finding an ASL interpreter can be easier to find in some locations than others. Obviously, large metropolitan areas offer more options than small towns. The first place to check would be with your hospital or doctor’s office. They may have a list of local ASL interpreters who can provide on-site services. Another good place to look is on the internet. Many services that provide interpreters have a website where patients or family members can find the information they need about hiring one.

It’s a good idea to plan ahead if possible. If you know you have an appointment or meeting scheduled with a doctor, social worker, or another member of the medical team providing care for the mesothelioma patient, look for an interpreter prior to the day their services are needed. If you have an emergency situation, many interpreter services may be able to accommodate you but the price per hour may be higher.

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