Let me point out from the start that I do not use sign language at all. I do know a few signs, but I would be lost if I was to try to have a conversation in sign language on my own. I got a bit curious when I read an article via Deaf Insight about an interpreter situation at the hospital and have tried to look up how it works here in Denmark. This is solely based on what I’ve read on the Danish hospitals webpages, political resources, Danish deaf websites, and from two friends of mine who do use sign language.
As a “general rule”, when a deaf person needs an interpreter at the hospital, the hospital has to provide the interpreter. The hospital prefers to know about this in advance, say before an operation or when the doctor needs to give information to the patient, so they can call in the interpreter in time. However, on the hospital’s website, (I looked up the one closest to myself and the big one in Copenhagen) it was pointed out that the doctor can evaluate whether or not there is a need for an interpreter. It doesn’t state why it is like this at all and I won’t even start to venture a guess to why it says this.
When it comes to an ER situation, it gets a little bit trickier; the general rule again is that if the deaf person asks for it, an interpreter should be called in to help sign for the deaf. I couldn’t find more information on how the hospitals handle this, but on other Danish deaf websites they have put up a phone number that you can call outside office hours if you need an interpreter. I did read about a case back in 2008, where some had experienced the ER staff ignoring the request for an interpreter, which only made the deaf person more insecure about what was going on. Others told about how they kept resisting getting the interpreter to help them after like 2-3 hours of debating, while writing on papers between the doctor and patient, before the interpreter was provided.
To say I was surprised to learn that even though the law says the hospital has to provide an interpreter, the hospital in different situations looks at it differently. I can only agree that I find this to not only be sad but it also makes me uncomfortable knowing this. Even though I don’t use an interpreter now, I have had a few clashes on my side, with some of the staff too. Mostly it was concerning my ear plug/mold. I would go back to the hospital if it didn’t fit well or was too small. I would get the reply that the company who did it thought I was an old lady who preferred it smaller than fitting to my ears. Thank goodness I’ve only heard this reply once; otherwise I would have replied back it was a lame excuse – which I did tell the staff then.
Other times I was told that I was just too hysterical and since the ear plug/mold didn’t make noise when in my ear, I should just get used to it, even though I felt like the ear plug/mold was falling out. I just don’t like that feeling at all. I had to be stubborn and tell them in stern voice, that it was my hearing and my life they are working for and how was I to be able to do my work and live my life if I couldn’t use my ear plug/mold as it was meant to.
It is sad, but I tried to turn it to something rather comic, because I go to the hospital once a year to have my ear plug/mold made and every time, there is almost always something wrong with it, so I take a deep breath, go back to the hospital along with my old ear plug/mold and show them the difference. When it has been fitted, I get rid of the old ear plug/mold, so I don’t change back to it. In that way I get used to the new ear plug/mold. Sometimes I do keep one in case I need it for an emergency. The story is almost the same for my hearing aid, but here I’m a bit luckier, as the hearing aid I usually get, is from the same company. (The hospital chose which hearing aid is best for me, from the hearing scale test I do every 4th year.) The company Phonak’s technicians are thankfully a lot better and more patient to hear me out if I have problems with the hearing aid.
But there are also good stories about the hospital and the use of an interpreter, like from my friend who was in for a CI operation. It went fine and the interpreting went great. I do know there are students who use interpreters both at college and university. I had a support teacher in my class till 8th grade. (I changed schools and didn’t use it since then, as I had my Smartlink – see previous blog about this).
Knowing this about the use of interpreter, if one day I would need one, I for one hope time has changed for better. Better understanding and accepting if there is a need for interpreter/help is good because even though my hearing is not quite a visible handicap, it is one that has just a big impact on both my capacity to work – and they want me to work right – and my life, to interact with other people in my daily life. And if the “normal” hearing world, government etc. want me to do all of this; I think it is only fair - as I pay my taxes and such - that I get the help I need to do it, without having to fight for it (there are still a few things to be worked on though). So it is not all bad, we need to have more faith in each other out there and make it a win/win case…
The Quiet Photographer