Venkatesh to study video-delivered interpreting services for persons with hearing impairments, supported by first Innovation Grant from Burton Blatt Institute
Venkatesh to study video-delivered interpreting services for persons with hearing impairments, supported by first Innovation Grant from Burton Blatt InstituteOctober 16, 2006Margaret Costello Spillettmcostell@syr.edu
Individuals with hearing impairments often lack the American Sign Language (ASL) interpreting services necessary to effectively communicate with their doctors, both in medical emergencies and in outpatient visits. Murali Venkatesh, professor in the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University, hopes to improve access to interpreters and thus the quality of health care services for people with hearing impairments by developing video-delivered ASL services. This innovative system would allow the interpreter to make a house call to the hospital from a remote location over the Internet.
“Access to communication is a fundamental right under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990,” Venkatesh says. “Under New York state law, health-care facilities must be able to provide language assistance services, including ASL, available to patients within 20 minutes during outpatient visits and within 10 minutes during emergencies. The Internet promises an entirely new capacity to broaden social inclusion. ASL services of significant interest include interpreting, mental health counseling and emergency preparedness and disaster response.”
To help develop the infrastructure to support such services, Venkatesh received a $5,000 Innovation Grant for his project, “Internet Video Interpreting for Remote American Sign Language Services,” from SU’s Burton Blatt Institute (BBI). This was the first Innovation Grant issued by the institute, named for former SU School of Education Dean and Centennial Professor Burton Blatt, a pioneer in humanizing services for people with mental retardation, staunch advocate of deinstitutionalization and national leader in special education. The grants were developed to support and stimulate innovative thinking, research, design, entrepreneurship and community development addressing disability, broadly defined, to all academic areas.
“Dr. Venkatesh’s proposal provides a great opportunity to find an innovative solution to meet the need for signers at emergency medical facilities,” says William Myhill, senior research associate at BBI and adjunct professor at the College of Law. “Video-delivered services have never been offered locally as a feasible option to meet the ADA’s mandates for interpreting services at hospitals. We hope to develop a model program here that can be shared with medical facilities across the nation.”
Venkatesh’s project will examine the feasibility of instituting Internet-delivered ASL services in two phases. The first involves studying the existing ASL services at two hospitals and one nonprofit provider, all located in Syracuse, and investigating what opportunities and challenges would stem from using video-delivered ASL services. The study will consider the impact of ensuring compliance to HIPAA privacy guidelines and the secure exchange of personal information. The second phase will look at health-care facilities in a 14-county area in New York state, their readiness for complying with the stipulations on access to ASL services, and the prospects for adopting Internet-delivered ASL services.