National Association of the Deaf

A Sample Workshop: Encouraging Doctors to be Deaf-Friendly

The presenter, Melanie Nakaji, asks the question: how do we make doctors more deaf-friendly?

UCSD program enrolls medical students who are expected of the following:
- 8 quarters of ASL courses
- gave health talks in ASL
- attended gallaudet for four weeks
- met deaf friends at health talks
- attended deaf culture events
- practiced ASL using hte internet, videos, DVDs
- practiced ASL with Deaf staff

The focus is on medical, legal and cultural perspectives. The goal is not to train them to be fluent in ASL, but rather to be culturally sensitive. Doctors need to earn credits similiar to CEUs. Doctors usually prefer taking training courses online. This electronic material is readily accessible to them in their home. Online training is not limited to one city and can be used anywhere.

Jesse Thomas, from the audience, works for a Philadelphia deaf agency that provides sensitivity training at hospitals. Thomas stated, “Not all doctors show up. They are not required to. An estimated 20 to 30 percent of doctors receive this available training.”

An audience member shared an experience in an emergency room (ER) for an allergy reaction. While she was being asked routine questions, she noticed a notation in her patient papers that she is “deaf and mute”. She does not feel she is mute, and “this label comes from a certain attitude. Does this happen to other deaf patients?” She added that she never received an apology.

Mute meaning not being capable of speech, such notations warns the doctor not to attempt to speak with the patient. Doctors may think they need speak louder with deaf patients. Another audience member said that doctors should be aware so they don’t assume inability of speech as a symptom. Nakaji recommended filing a complaint with the hospital to use a more political correct term.

A NAD member from Syracuse, New York, made the recommendation of talk to nurses, instead of doctors. Doctors have 7 minutes limit per patient as mandated by insurance policy. Nurses have more time to sit down and discuss needs.

Currently the clearinghouse website promoting professional medical services is Check the website to locate doctors that provide professional medical services in your area.

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