Six Tucson-area facilities that provide assisted living with skilled nursing care for older adults are being sued by a nonprofit housing council claiming they discriminate against deaf individuals.
The Southwest Fair Housing Council, an organization in Tucson that ensures everyone has equal access to housing in Arizona, is naming a dozen nursing homes and assisted-living facilities in the Tucson and Phoenix areas it says are breaking state and federal laws, including the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Any facility that accepts federal financial assistance, including Medicare reimbursements for providing health care, is breaking federal laws when not abiding by the federal Fair Housing Act and also the Arizona Fair Housing Act, according to the civil lawsuit.
Under the Fair Housing Act, discrimination includes “a refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, polices, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford such person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Tucson and the housing council is requesting a jury trial.
The housing council used “testers” to determine whether the facilities would supply a sign language interpreter and other services for a deaf resident if requested or necessary. The testers, who used aliases when they went to the facilities, posed as grandchildren inquiring on behalf of fictional deaf grandparents who uses American Sign Language.
Audio recordings by telephone and/or videophone calls were made of all contacts between the testers and facility employees regarding what services were available for the deaf grandparents. Testers also visited facilities in person and recorded the conversations.
The facilities named in the lawsuit, which is filed separately against each business, in Tucson are:
- Atria Campana del Rio, 1550 E. River Road. Officials did not return a phone call to comment about the suit.
- Sherwood Village Assisted Living and Memory Care, 102 S. Sherwood Village Drive. Cindy Fitzgerald, director at Sherwood, said she cannot comment on pending litigation.
- Sunrise at River Road, 4975 N. First Ave. Jennifer Clark, a spokeswoman for the company, said by email, “We are committed to providing high-quality, personalized care and service for each of our residents in a supportive, welcoming environment.” However, Clark said she was unable to comment about pending litigation.
- The Fountains at La Cholla, 2001 W. Rudasill Road. Officials did not return a phone call requesting comment.
The facilities named in the lawsuit in Green Valley are:
- La Posada at Park Centre, 350 E. Morningside Road. Joni Condit, chief operating officer, said through her assistant that she was unable to comment on pending litigation.
- Silver Springs, 500 W. Camino Encanto. Officials did not comment on the suit.
The remaining facilities are located in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Glendale, Peoria and Chandler.
Attorneys for the Southwest Fair Housing Council did not respond to requests for comment. Jay Young, executive director of the council, also did not comment.
According to the suit:
The owners of numerous nursing homes and assisted-living residences discriminated against deaf residents “by making statements that amount to a refusal to provide” American Sign Language interpreters or auxiliary aids, including braille and taped materials, and services for effective communication with prospective residents.
The suit states that sign language interpreters are necessary for the majority of deaf individuals “receiving medical, nursing home and assisted living and rehabilitation care when that care involves complicated information, lengthy communications, or when the individual has other conditions that make seeing or communicating through other means more difficult.”
Lip-reading, communicating with pen and paper, the use of a whiteboard, message boards or online translations programs are not a sufficient means of communicating with deaf individuals, said the housing council. Also testers, who began investigations in 2016, were told their deaf grandparent should install their own necessary devices, such as a “blinking door bell.”
In some cases, testers were also told the family would have to provide and pay for interpreting services. Also, officials told a tester that for medical paperwork the facility would rely on family members.
In the lawsuit, the housing council asks for the facilities to begin providing interpreters for the deaf. The council is also seeking compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and costs.
Making plans for weather emergencies may be challenging for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community if the information is not presented visually.
Messages of emergency preparedness and weather awareness are often disseminated through radio and television announcements that are then shared through the internet and social media. However, it’s important that this information is made visible, according to Howard A. Rosenblum, chief executive officer of the National Association of the Deaf.
“To be fully accessible, any auditory information regarding emergencies and inclement weather should always be provided simultaneously with captioning and sign language,” said Rosenblum.
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Weather alert radios and fire safety systems can be modified for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to offer vibrations and flashing lights with each message. And smart phones offer a wide variety of visual alerts, such as the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireless Alerts System.
“Phones are very important, especially during power and/or home internet outages,” said Norman Williams, a senior research engineer with Gallaudet University, the country’s only liberal arts college for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. “They tend to continue working during the storms unless nearby cellular towers get damaged. Without TV, phone service, power and home internet, it will be tough for deaf people to get information.”
But experts say there may be a potential problem with live streaming video on social media during weather emergencies: it’s possible that the messages will not be captioned, which creates a barrier for deaf people.
“Communications that are geared towards mobile apps and smart phones are a necessary part of efficient and effective dissemination of emergency and weather information to everyone including deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals as long as the information is provided in all modes including auditory, captioning, and sign language,” Rosenblum said.
The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities has a comprehensive guide with tips and resources about this topic.
“During an emergency, planning for the communication needs of someone with a hearing loss might help reduce stress and also save a life,” according to the pamphlet.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma House of Representatives Speaker Charles McCall (R-District 22) from Atoka honored a trifecta of championship teams from the Oklahoma School for the Deaf April 8 on the House floor.
The school is located in McCall’s district. He is a frequent visitor and supporter.
The OSD men’s football team was named the 2018-2019 co-champion, while the women’s basketball and cheer teams are both champions in the Great Plains Schools for the Deaf Conference.
McCall, who was absent to attend a funeral in his district, asked his colleague Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols to introduce the students and read a citation recognizing their achievements.
In a Facebook message posted with a video of the presentation at https://www.facebook.com/
McCall wrote, “These young men and women have worked very hard to excel in the classroom and on the playing fields. I am very proud of their accomplishments, and it was truly an honor for all of our members to have them at the Capitol.”
Sen. Frank Simpson (R-District 14) from Springer stepped out of the Senate session for a photo with the student-athletes and acknowledged their presence in the Senate gallery overlooking the Senate floor.
The OSD football team’s record for 2018-2019 was four wins against Arkansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Kansas and three losses to Louisiana, Mississippi and Life Christian Academy. The team was also the conference champion in 2008, 2012, 2014 and 2018.
The football coaches are Lawson Pair, head coach; Jason Sledd and Jimmy Mitchell, assistant coaches; and Chris Reagle, retired assistant coach.
The OSD women’s basketball record was nine wins and 14 losses. In conference play, OSD earned five wins and two losses against Kansas School for the Deaf and Texas School for the Deaf, which is the Division 1 national championship team. The OSD team also earned conference champion titles in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2016.
Women’s coaches are Levi Mathis, head coach, and Deb Ulery, assistant coach.
“Our OSD women beat several teams from public schools with hearing students from the local area and gave several Class B, A and 2A schools in our area a run for their money,” Mathis said.