By Paul Khouri, ERC Civil Rights intern
Growing up in Jordan with multiple disabilities, I learned firsthand the realities of disability issues in developing countries. When I moved to the United States, I hoped to see a place where people with disabilities were given better opportunities. Reading about the struggles of Michael Argenyi – a deaf medical student who is suing Creighton University School of Medicine for denying him access to an interpreter for his clinical training – tells me that the barrier walls of deaf people and people with disabilities in general have yet to be torn down.
I recognize that providing deaf individuals with resources to help them understand academic courses better is costly. Interpreters and real time captioning are expensive. Even Mr. Argenyi himself states that he paid more than $100,000 out of his own pocket to have interpreters and transcription available for his course work. For this reason, a higher education institution that admits a student should not agree to provide certain accommodations – as Creighton did, initially in providing note takers, priority seating, and audio podcasts – and then, at a later time reject the student’s needs when these accommodations turn out to be inadequate resources and tools.
This article clearly illustrates Mr. Argenyi’s plight and the plight of so many people with disabilities. It makes me recall a recent visit I had in the emergency room after a bicycle accident. A friend of mine accompanied me to the hospital. The nurses and doctors in the ER could clearly see that we were communicating with one another using American Sign Language. When doctors approached the two of us, I requested an ASL interpreter, wanting to be 100 percent certain on my medical condition. I was told that the hospital would not provide an interpreter, and I was told that I seemed to understand the doctors’ communication just fine without one. When I think back to that incident, I have often thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great to communicate with a doctor who can truly listen to and understood my needs as a patient with a disability?”
By denying Mr. Argenyi an interpreter, Creighton is cheapening his education and squandering the resources they have already put towards his education. An increasing number of deaf people are seeking professional positions as lawyers, teachers, engineers and doctors. Yet, Creighton seems to be sending a specific message to deaf people.
By telling Michael Argenyi that he cannot have an interpreter provided for him in a classroom, is the University telling deaf people that they should not be taking on positions as doctors? How can a deaf student be expected to contribute to the deaf community, and to the world at large, if people like Michael Argenyi are not allowed to pursue the education and training that they are more than capable of handling?