It appeared to be like any other Monday for Luis, last August. It was sunny; and there was a blue sky and light winds as Luis — a deaf New Yorker — emerged from a Brooklyn subway station to walk to the social service agency where he receives support. While walking to the social service agency, Luis felt faint and fell. By the time he reached the agency, he appeared ill and a volunteer called an ambulance and Luis was taken to a local hospital. Once there, Luis strived to communicate with staff, while requesting an American Sign Language interpreter. His toe was painful. He felt very sick. Luis stayed at the hospital all day, but no interpreter arrived. By evening, he was discharged home.
In the absence of an interpreter, the hospital did not understand Luis’ risk factors: one week later, Luis (who is diabetic) was admitted to another hospital and underwent emergency surgery requiring the amputation of his toe. Luis had a raging infection and there was no other alternative to treat the infection, but amputation.
Luis’ story is not unusual. All too often, deaf individuals enter places of public accommodation and are not provided with interpreters. At the law center, we work to advance the civil rights of the deaf community, while creating transformational change in the manner in which public and private entities interact with deaf New Yorkers. We enforce the civil rights of deaf New Yorkers, one client at a time, in an effort to achieve important language access in hospitals, police settings, homeless shelters, in other government agencies and among employers.