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NYAG reaches agreement with Kinney Drugs on access issues for deaf and hard-of-hearing customers

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has reached an agreement with parent company of Gouverneur, New York–based Kinney Drugs over accessibility for customers who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The agreement with KPH Healthcare Services, Inc. ensures that deaf or hard-of-hearing customers can access the pharmacy’s services and communicate“effectively” with pharmacists.

Kinney Drugs is the retail pharmacy division of KPH Healthcare Services, Inc., according to the KPH website.


Schneiderman’s office announced the agreement in a news release distributed on Thursday.

In cooperation with the attorney general’s office, KPH Healthcare Services agreed to “improve” its policies to ensure that pharmacists and other staff communicate “effectively” with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Expanding access to communication aids and services, including assistive-listening systems and qualified sign-language interpreters, is required by law, according to Schneiderman’s office.

In addition, KPH Healthcare Services also agreed to new protocols for evaluating and meeting the needs of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, the news release said.

The company also agreed to improved procedures for training, recordkeeping, and investigation of complaints.

KPH Healthcare Services will also pay $30,000 to Onondaga County to support programs that benefit individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing and other individuals with disabilities, Schneiderman’s office said.

“Full access to healthcare should be available to every New Yorker, regardless of whether or not they have a disability,” Schneiderman said in the news release. “My office is committed to ensuring that pharmacies and other healthcare facilities meet patients’ communications needs, as required by state and federal law. Effective communication between customers and pharmacy staff is critical to patients understanding the effects of medications and potential drug interactions.”

This agreement is part of Schneiderman’s initiative to ensure “equal access for individuals with disabilities at places of public accommodation” in New York, according to the news release.

Previous agreements ensuring communications accessibility for deaf and hard-of-hearing New Yorkers include agreements with hospitals and other healthcare facilities and theatres, Schneiderman’s office said.

As part of the initiative, the civil-rights bureau is also assessing communications accessibility at other pharmacy chains in New York, it added.

Schneiderman is to be “applauded” for securing an agreement that promotes “equal access” for pharmacy customers and their companions, Michael Schwartz,associate professor at the Syracuse University College of Law and director of its Disability Rights Clinic, said in the attorney general’s news release.

“Deaf and hard-of-hearing people are entitled to effective communication under state and federal laws, and all places of public accommodation, including pharmacies and other healthcare facilities, must provide sign-language interpreters if needed to ensure effective communication,” said Schwartz.

KPH Healthcare Services operates 101 Kinney Drugs pharmacies, 77 of which are located in 19 counties across upstate New York, including Cayuga, Clinton, Cortland, Essex, Franklin, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, Otsego, St. Lawrence, Seneca, Tompkins, Warren, and Wayne counties, Schneiderman’s office said.

Hearing loss is one of the “most common” conditions affecting elderly individuals, who also make “more frequent use” of pharmacies, and upstate New York is home to a “substantial” population of seniors, it added.

The office also cites estimates from the U.S. Census that indicate more than 700,000 New Yorkers are either deaf or have serious difficulty hearing.

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