Accessibility

09/30/2022 02:19 AM By Lisa Anderson
Access
Scott McElroy
Scott McElroy
Story by Cierra Ross • Photo by Joshua Jacobs

Accessibility

Denied but Not Defeated

Scott McElroy was born in Naples, Illinois in 1957. At 16 months of age, he contracted meningitis and lost his hearing. Growing up, the only way to communicate with his parents was through gestures and finger spelling and by speaking slowly to him. Only one member of his family of six could fully communicate with him in a language he understood.

“I wish [my family] knew sign language,” Scott signs. Without the ability to converse freely with his family, he was prevented from learning about his family’s history or about his parents’ backgrounds. The limited communication kept Scott in the dark. It prevented him from learning about those closest to him.

Despite the lack of communication, Scott was a reliable worker. At 11 years old, he swept, mopped, and hung inventory in his father’s clothing shop. Scott also helped at his uncle’s farm. “It was fun working at the farm. I miss the farm. There was always something to do,” Scott says.

Building a Career

After Scott graduated from college with an AA in architecture, he started working for GE. During his two years at GE, he was able to get to know his future wife’s father and brother, who were his co-workers.

After being laid off from GE, he put his degree to work and began building homes. He enjoyed the work, but the lack of insurance and benefits prevented that career from being long-term.

For the next 27 years, Scott worked at a car factory. Aside from the three-week training, Scott never saw another interpreter at his work. During his time at the factory, he communicated using gestures and written notes. Scott also taught some of his colleagues sign language.
Mockup

A Health Scare

When he was 59, Scott and his wife moved to Florida, and he states that, “[We] are so happy to be here. There are so many things to do here. It’s never boring.” From water volleyball with friends to pickleball tournaments, Scott and his wife are making the most of their Florida life.

In January, Scott began to feel discomfort in his lower abdomen. The pain intensified, and when his wife arrived home, she rushed him to the ER.

After back-and-forth written notes, an X-ray, and a room change, Scott found out that he had a kidney stone that was stuck, which meant he needed surgery. Little did Scott know that once he transferred to a different hospital, those following four days would be met with powerlessness and oppression.

Scott checked in on Thursday, was transferred Friday night, and waited all day Saturday to hear about his surgery. “I hoped they would have an interpreter for me,” Scott says. After hours of waiting, a nurse finally wrote he would have surgery on Sunday.

Scott’s wife, who is also Deaf, repeatedly requested for an interpreter, but the nurse never responded to her right for an interpreter. They were left without any way to successfully communicate with anyone inside the hospital.

Sunday came and with it the surgery. “Most of the doctors and nurses wore masks; I couldn’t read their lips,” Scott recalls. His wife begged them to use the Video Relay Interpreter (an interpreter on a screen), but they refused. The hospital prevented Scott’s access to communication. Instead of an interpreter, the doctors hand wrote the information. “It wasn’t legible,” Scott recalled. “I had no idea what they said.”

The day after his surgery, Scott arrived home, furious. All four nights, he had no access. “They never asked me any questions. I felt like a dog. There was no communication.” No one told him about what to expect before, during, or after the procedure. No one knew if he was allergic to any medication, which could have been fatal.

Willful Negligence

Two days later, Scott grew concerned about his surgery and made an appointment, which he requested an interpreter for. He spoke with three people about an interpreter before they told him they would call him back, which they never did.

The day of the appointment, Scott called again and requested a specific interpreter and provided the hospital with the interpreter’s number. However, based on his experiences, Scott reached out to the interpreter himself. The interpreter hadn’t heard from the hospital and volunteered to interpret for Scott, because he understood the significance of access. “[I wanted] to make them wake up. I needed an interpreter,” Scott said. The interpreter even provided the doctor with his business card.

A week later, Scott had a check-up, which he requested an interpreter for. Scott commented about the lack of interpreter again by stating, “The doctor said, ‘I forgot to call the interpreter.’ I forgot. I was a bit upset about that. I wanted an interpreter.” Three weeks later, he experienced the same issue. “I never went to see that doctor again.”

Scott, with the help of the Center for Independent Living, wrote the hospital a formal letter of complaint. They have been met with silence. Even when they resubmitted the letter, the hospital refused to address the issue.

“We need all hospitals to wake up. The ADA law was started 30 years ago…We have a right to interpreters,” Scott declares. By law, hospitals are required to provide interpreting services.

Despite the challenges, Scott has made a full recovery and is looking forward to his pickleball tournament.
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