Click here to view PSAD Position Statement on DHHS – DEC
The Pennsylvania Society for the Advancement of the Deaf (PSAD) is a nonprofit statewide civil rights association whose mission is to empower deaf and hard of hearing individuals to achieve full and equal access to their civil, human, and linguistic rights through information, and advocacy. PSAD is 135 years old, and is one of the oldest deaf civil rights organizations in the
PSAD’s members read the letter to the editor in the Lancaster Online by a consumer named, Ms. Joanne Reilly, dated February 19, 2016 in regards to the recent changes in case management services for the deaf by Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services, and the response by Ms. Melissa A. Hawkins, of Disability Empowerment Center, dated March 2, 2016.
PSAD shares its members concerns that any organization providing case management services to deaf consumers’ needs to be culturally competent, and linguistically fluent in American Sign Language (ASL).
It is difficult, if not impossible, for organizations to properly evaluate a prospective employee’s proficiency in ASL. Too often, agency directors have misconceptions about learning ASL, and about the role of culture in the Deaf community. Merely taking a few ASL classes is not enough to be considered proficient enough to provide case management services. Indeed, it takes years of dedication to master a second language, and ASL is a language in its own right. Therefore, PSAD recommends that organizations use a neutral rating tool to determine one’s level of ASL fluency. A measurement of ASL proficiency can be done either by the American Sign Language Proficiency Interview (ASLPI) provided by Gallaudet University or the Sign Language Proficiency Interview (SLPI).
PSAD recommends that any case manager serving deaf and hard of hearing consumers have a score of at least an Advanced Plus or 4+ on either the SLPI or ASLPI. In addition, it is critical that the case manager have an internalization of Deaf culture and the impact that culture has on the provision of services. Of note, case managers typically deal with serious issues such as refugee trauma, domestic violence, sexual assault/rape, and other medical/social services barriers. These issues require an intimate knowledge of appropriate referral sources for this population. A person who is not intimately aware of cultural issues may not be able to assess and refer properly.
Ms. Joanne Reilly is to be applauded for making public the very real concerns that the Deaf community has about the changes in case management services. Communication access is of the utmost importance in providing optimal services. It is not fair or right for a deaf person to have to access case management services via an ASL interpreter or to feel uncomfortable with a person’s insufficient sign skills. Serious misunderstandings that could result in life or death decisions can and have happened when a service provider is not fluent in ASL. Direct communication access in one’s native language is a human right.
PSAD is available to consult with any organization that provides services – case management, advocacy, or mental health services – to the deaf and hard of hearing community. PSAD’s goal is to advocate for statewide mental health services, which includes case management, with standards for ASL fluency, and cultural competency. For further information about PSAD, our website is www.psadweb.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for how you can help advocate for statewide mental health services for deaf and hard of hearing consumers.
Elizabeth Hill, LCSW
PSAD Board Member