DeafHear Regional News
The New York Police Department (NYPD) is launching a pilot programme to help police to communicate better with Deaf people, the New York Daily News reported recently.
NYPD officers in parts of Manhatton and Queens in New York will be provided with tablets so that they can communicate with Deaf people via an online sign language interpreting service. The initiative follows a number of large fines imposed on the NYPD by the courts in New York.
Back in 2009, the NYPD consented to end their violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and to improve its handling of cases involving Deaf people. This included providing training for officers and providing sign language interpreters on a 24 hour basis. However, in reality these changes did not take place, and the NYPD had a number of fines imposed on them in the meantime.
In 2015 a Deaf Staten Island woman who sued the city for wrongful arrest after cops ignored her disability won a $750,000 settlement – one of the largest of its kind, her attorney said at the time.
The woman, Diana Williams, communicated through American Sign Language. She called 911 using a telecommunication relay service for the deaf in September 2011 because she needed help evicting a tenant from her Staten Island home.
Despite a note on the 911 log that clearly stated the caller was Deaf, the cops who arrived didn’t have a sign-language interpreter – and instead of getting one, they arrested Williams and kept her in lockup in the police station for more than 24 hours. Ms. Williams grew so panicked she scrawled the letters “HOSP” on the window of the police cruiser, the suit said. She hoped by getting to a hospital she would find the sign–language interpreter she needed, according to court papers.
In December 2016, Tanya Ingram, a Deaf woman who claimed NYPD cops wrongfully arrested her and denied her an interpreter, settled for $80,000. Ms. Ingram, 52, claimed NYPD officers wrongly arrested her after a car accident in Feb 2013. Police got to the scene around 45 minutes later and spoke extensively with the other driver. While Ingram tried to explain that she was Deaf and tell her side of the story – typing a note on her phone asking for an interpreter – they “expressed visible annoyance” and “appeared to be mocking her use of gestures,” her lawsuit, filed in February, said.
Ms. Ingram didn’t know what was going on when the cops started to arrest her. She became “extremely frightened and utterly bewildered as to the reason for her arrest, began crying and repeatedly tried to audibly shout, “Why?,” the suit alleged. Authorities held Ingram for 24 hours – and they never gave her an interpreter, even though it’s required under the law. Ingram faced four misdemeanors – menacing, harassment, resisting arrest and criminal possession of a weapon – but prosecutors dropped all charges in July 2013, the suit said.
Could this happen in Ireland?
Brendan Lennon, DeafHear’s Head of Advocacy says that DeafHear is not aware of any instances where Deaf people were wrongfully arrested by Gardai, but that there have been occassions when Deaf people have been detained or questioned by Gardai without interpreters being present. A number of Deaf people have also been before the courts as recently as 2016 without the assistance of interpreters.
DeafHear, along with the Irish Deaf Society and the Sing Language Interpreting Service developed a remote sign language interpreting service more than five years ago, but the uptake in the meantime from public service providers, including the Gardai, has been very poor. Only a handful of public service providers have any formal arrangement to use this service at present.
“The events in New York are very interesting at a time when the Irish legislature is processing a Bill to officially recognise Irish Sign Language. While there have been some improvements in access to interpreting for Deaf people in recent times, these improvements have been minimal and definitely not across the spectrum of public services,” says Lennon. “One wonders what would happen if the courts in Ireland had a similar approach to discrimination as the New York courts,” he added.
Source:New York Daily News