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D.C. child welfare agency to provide deaf clients with technology, interpreters

By Justin Moyer,

The District’s child welfare agency has agreed to provide deaf clients with technology for making phone calls and sign-language interpreters during home visits and interviews with foster or adoptive parents.

The agreement came as part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights , which determined that the child welfare agency had failed to a provide an interpreter for a deaf client and family members during an adoption proceeding in 2007.

“People have the right to equality when communicating with human service providers,” Leon Rodriguez, head of the civil rights office, said in a recent statement. “My office will continue to enforce the law to ensure that agencies comply with their obligations.”

Mindy Good, a spokeswoman for child welfare agency, which serves foster and adoptive children in D.C., said she was not aware of a pattern of discrimination against the deaf.

“Today, when people need language translation — they need sign-language translation, they need any of those accommodations — we have far and away more resources,” she said.

Good noted that the District’s Office of Disability Rights, which the child welfare agency uses for sign-language interpretation, did not exist in 2007.

“The wheels of justice at the federal level in an agency just don’t turn very fast,” she said.

The child welfare agency is not the only part of the D.C. government that has faced criticism over its services to the deaf. Earlier this month, a deaf man incarcerated by the D.C. Department of Corrections sued the city, alleging he did not consistently have an interpreter while incarcerated.

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