What is my ethical and legal responsibility when it comes to providing an interpreter?

                Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 19731, Title III of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA)2 , and the health care professional's obligations for service provision to people with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and under court decisions that have extended protections afforded under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 19643, it is mandated by law that an auxiliary aide (e.g. Interpreter) or service is available and provided to patients with impairments (e.g. vision, speech and hearing deficits).  According to the ADA, if a facility faces an undue burden, one that includes financial and operational hardship, they are not required to provide an interpreter.  Unfortunately, an undue burden is not objectively defined and is subjected to regulatory and legal proceedings.   

                A qualified interpreter is one who can effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively and expressively convey to the patient the words of the practitioner. This can be a family member, health care professional or outsources service if they are competent.  When using an interpreter, remember to include defensible documentation when services are provided.  Defensible documentation includes but is not limited to:  the type of service provided, the delivery method, the name and qualification of the interpreter and the patient's understanding. Documentation is often used as evidence during litigation so accurate and thorough documentation is vital.  


  1. 1. 29 USC section 794; 45 CFR sections 84.1-84.61.
  2. 42 USC 12181.
  3. 28 CFR 36.303.



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