When we met with the hospital administration they made a throwaway comment which bothered me tremendously - they compared the provison of on-site interpreters to giving everyone luxury cars. I was like, WHAT? To me, it didn't make sense. To me we were fighting for a car that works. 60% of the time, we don't have a car at all, according to statistics from Rockland County Mental Health; there just aren't enough interpreters. But Beth Israel thinks they're giving us luxury cars. Uh-huh. Interpreters are not a luxury - and we must stop people when they call then luxuries. Interpreters are, in many cases, survival equipment, and it is equipment we fought for.
It's always about money. The hospital needs to save cash. Why? Because they're losing some. Eliot Spitzer has been making budget cuts to the support the state gives to hospitals; Unions across New York as well as independent organizations have been contacting his office on this issue. Yet these cuts haven't taken effect yet. But whether they do or not, money is always going to be an issue.
Still - the hospital MUST respect the Deaf person's choice of communication. At the heart we're really asking for the freedom of choice. God, in some ways this is like the abortion argument: People arguing for morality, in this case the morality of fiscal responsibility rather than the morality of chastity. "We have to save money!" Because we Deaf people aren't worth the spending of it, is the unspoken second line. Our freedom of choice and comfort in an issue of such importance as our health isn't worth the cash.
Yes. Yes it is. Yes, we are. But the case must be clear: I have no issue with the use of VRI in the emergency room. There are not enough ASL interpreters. Some of the interpreters we do have, do crazy things like get sick or go on vacation. VRI is a reasonable pinch hitter. We are advocating against people thinking it's Derek Jeter. But the hospital can still save - by giving people choice, instead of taking it away. Here's three points:
- My first point: the hospital is starting from a baseline of zero (0.) This means the hospital has zero (0) users of VRI. Were they to make use of VRI an option for all regularly scheduled appointments as well as emergency appointments, this number would increase, resulting necessarily in a savings for the hospital.
- My second point: most of the problems hospitals have, have to do with their complete LACK of policy regarding the provision of ASL interpreters. We all know you need to request 1 week 2 weeks in advance? Most hospitals do it the same day - then get pissed when nobody shows up and blame the interpreting service and use this as an excuse to switch to the "always-available" VRI.
- My third point: the hospital wastes money on interpreters unnecessarily for jobs that are not strictly interpreting. A hospital with a large Deaf population could, e.g., hire a few Deaf employees the way they hire other groups for diversity. And these employees would be responsible for orientation, support, and basic services for Deaf consumers.
We're not asking for a free ride. But hearing people never include us in their Big Plans, and then they fail to see what, to us, are obvious ways of saving money. Other ideas?