Auslan Interpreters in Hospitals

An inquiry into access to Auslan Interpreters in Victorian Hospitals 

Research and report by Deaf Victoria (Lowrie, 2014)

Access to appropriately skilled and accredited Auslan/English interpreters for deaf and hard of hearing people in hospital settings has been and continues to be an issue in Victoria and around Australia.
In 2014 Deaf Victoria Manager, Melissa Hale (nee Lowrie) completed interviews with 72 people across Victoria and compiled her findings in this report.

This report provides a comprehensive insight into the experience of Deaf patients in the Victorian hospital system in relation to:

  • The provision of Auslan interpreters
  • The problems that were encountered and the impact these issues had on their individual outcomes
  • Real life experiences that led to positive outcomes
  • Changes that are recommended to the system of booking and providing Auslan interpreters in Victorian public hospitals
  • The need for continuous professional development of Interpreters and hospital staff and procedural changes to deal with emergencies.

The report clearly outlined systemic and individual failures in relation to the provision of access and communication. This resulted in a compromised ability for deaf and hard of hearing people to be actively involved in decisions about their health care and in some instances, even provide informed consent. A small number of the recommendations outlined in this report have been implemented with others now requiring modernisation due to changes in interpreter provision and funding (including the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme). Further improvements are required to ensure that deaf and hard of hearing patients, carers, parents and support people have equal access to healthcare information and services. These changes are vital to ensure medial care is provided in ways that align with health and anti-discrimination legislation, medical codes of conduct and community expectations.

As a result of this report and other advocacy work, Deaf Victoria continues to and develop resources, lead projects and contribute to policy in this area. We work collaboratively with hospitals, deaf sector organisations, patient advocacy groups and the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services to further improve access to interpreters in healthcare settings.

Some of our work can be seen below here:

Deaf Victoria can provide support to deaf and hard of hearing people who are experiencing difficulty in getting access to the right support (including Auslan/English Interpreters) in healthcare or hospital settings. This service is funded by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services so is free to access. To book an appointment, please contact our Individual Advocacy Officer on: advocacy@deafvictoria.org.au  

More information on our advocacy service ›