written by Denise Nunez, Deaf Cultural Competency Coordinator
The Diversity and Resiliency Institute of El Paso, a program of the Borderland Rainbow Center, is offering a Deaf Sensitivity and Cultural Competency training free of charge to mental health providers in El Paso County Texas! As a S.O.D.A, Sibling of a Deaf Adult, I believe it is imperative that professionals seek out training related to the Deaf Community. I am sure I speak for all the S.O.D.A.’s and C.O.D.A.’s, Children of a Deaf Adult, when I say that Deaf people deserve equality. I have watched for years as my sister experienced time and time again what so many Deaf people experience; the expectation that family or friends will interpret for them. Growing up, I don’t recall ever seeing an interpreter at my sister’s pediatric appointments.
The first time a doctor, her neurologist, asked for an interpreter for my sister was when she was a senior in high school, 18-years old. He asked for an interpreter because he had to conduct a surgery and he wanted to ensure that she understood the procedure. Just take that into perspective. My mom, a Mexican lady with minimal background in English, tried to sign every time at my sister’s appointments, for 18 years. You may read this and think to yourself, it can’t be much different than a parent being with their hearing child in a doctor’s appointment, but it is very different. It is an incredibly stressful event for the family member and the Deaf individual. Not only does the Deaf individual feel the stress we all feel when visiting the doctor, but also the added stress of knowing that they will not have the same privacy in their medical care as hearing individuals. For the family member interpreting, they may have to interpret distressing news or complicated medical information. Imagine being forced into that position.
This issue is the same in accessing social services and mental health care. Too often Deaf individuals are told “just bring a family member or friend to interpret for you”, or they are told that “there aren’t any appointments available for you”. What providers must understand is that not only is this a violation of disability law, it is also unethical as it eliminates the opportunity for privacy and undermines cultural humility, and, to be blunt, it demonstrates that providers do not value the health and wellbeing of Deaf individuals enough to effectively communicate with them. Imagine how that must feel, to know that in even your most vulnerable state like seeking mental health care or medical care, it is likely you will be viewed as an inconvenience and not as a person deserving of the best care possible.
This training will not only help professionals: it will help alleviate the stress that family member’s experience when trying to sign for the Deaf person. It is our hope that this training will motivate providers to abide by the law and treat Deaf individuals ethically, providing a sense of confidentiality for the Deaf patient due to not having the family member interpret for them, and creating an environment where a Deaf individual can access care and not be treated as an inconvenience. In the end, all a patient wants from their provider is trust, respect and effective communication, even if it requires an interpreter.
By participating in this opportunity, you as a provider will be able to strengthen your skills to better partner with and serve your community. With this training, you will gain a general knowledge of how to work with a Deaf individual . When you participate in this training, you will be able to increase your marketability. Lastly, this opportunity will give you knowledge and knowledge is power!