Making True Health Accessible to All
Communicating the Message of Chiropractic in American Sign Language
Chiropractic is a form of holistic healthcare that can benefit everyone, from young to old. Sadly, the healing message of chiropractic is not reaching many due to communication barriers. The deaf community is considered to be an under-served population in terms of holistic healthcare and the primary reason is because the message of true health and wellness is not being communicated in their main language, American Sign Language.
As a chiropractor and someone who is hard of hearing myself, I began to notice how many of my colleagues were reluctant to have deaf patients or tried to avoid hiring a sign language interpreter due to the cost. That reluctance is understandable as most sign language interpreter's fees are expensive and can equal the cost of the patient visit. But does that not lessen the need for the patient to be given access to an interpreter so they can be given the necessary information in regards to their health and care. It is their right to be given access to communication that is clear and understandable for them and it is equally their right to have access to holistic health care and chiropractic care. They should not be denied access to true health and wellness because their method of communication is different than ours. It is worth noting that written communication and closed captioning on videos is not the solution. While it can be very helpful, there are two main barriers. First, ASL has a different grammatical structure than English. It is more similar to Spanish or French which is why it can be hard to read for some native ASL speakers. Also, there are not equivalent signs for much of the terminology in chiropractic or other holistic healthcare fields. The chiropractic term "adjustment" can mean something very different in ASL and subluxation is not a term that exists in ASL.
So, what is the solution? Truthfully, I don't have the complete answer to that (at least, not an answer that will satisfy both sides). In an attempt to create a partial solution, I created a video in ASL with two sign language interpreters (the clip is shown above) so that chiropractors can use this in their offices. I worked with a native ASL speaker (a Certified Deaf Interpreter) to make sure the message of chiropractic was clear and understandable in ASL and not obstructed by unfamiliar terminology.But while that can help get the message of chiropractic out to the Deaf community, it won't eliminate the communication barriers once the patient is inside the office unless the chiropractor uses an interpreter. Perhaps creating an alliance between chiropractors and holistic healthcare professionals and sign language interpreters and creating an organization to help defray the costs associated with hiring interpreters is the best solution. The most obvious long term answer would be to have more chiropractic students (and other holistic healthcare students) who are native ASL speakers that can then go and work in the Deaf community. But that requires a willingness on the part of colleges to reach out to students in the Deaf community and provide them with the resources they need to succeed. I do know that the solution needs to come from both sides. Both sides need to work together to understand the other's concerns. Most chiropractors and holistic healthcare providers want healthcare to be accessible to everyone and don't want barriers to their services. They want everyone to be able to receive their message and have the option of getting their care. When we work together, we create solutions for all.
*If you would like the video, this is the link https://lifegivinglanguages.podia.com/benefits-of-chiropractic-adjustments-in-asl*