Profoundly Deaf Australian parents have had their three month old baby and five year old child taken away from them by a children’s hospital. The couple had no idea that the hospital was concerned about the children until a meeting was organised to tell the parents that the children would be going into foster care.
None of the discussions or decisions leading up to the removal of the children involved a sign language interpreter which meant the parents were ignorant to the situation. An interpreter was brought in for the final meeting but despite the mother raising concerns about the interpreter’s lack of experience and poor suitability, another interpreter was not provided.
“This failure of the hospital interpreting system was a disaster for the parents and this little family, who were then not able to adequately communicate their perspectives, feelings or needs or defend themselves, let alone be involved in making important care decisions for their child.”
“Westmead Hospital has failed in their responsibility to ensure the basic human right to communicate,” explained Deaf Australia NSW President Ms Jordanna Smith, “This has resulted in a heartbreaking situation for this family, which could have been avoided if the hospital had arranged interpreters and consulted the parents from the very beginning. The primary goal should be to support families to stay together.”
“Even as we move one step forward with the NDIS and empowerment of people with disabilities, incidents like this take us ten steps back and further away from an inclusive society. It is simply unacceptable, especially from a public service,” said Deaf Australia President Mr Todd Wright.
This is another shocking example of the inequalities and communication barriers Deaf people experience, regardless of where in the world they live.
At the end of 2013, Deaf parents in London experienced severe communication barriers because an interpreter was not provided during labour.
SignHealth are shocked and appalled by the inequalities Deaf people continue to experience. In April we launched Sick Of It, our report that highlights the unacceptable barriers Deaf people encounter, and we are using it to approach leading NHS figures and CCGs to raise awareness and encourage change.
We are also leading the way with the Information Standard, a set of rules that healthcare providers must follow, including communication support when requested.
These changes will ensure Deaf people will not have to face these terrible situations any more.