Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Interpreting Studies and Communication Equity


ASL & Interpreting

First Advisor

Gloria Nathanson


ASL and Interpreting


Deaf American Sign Language (ASL) users possess both human and legal rights to health. Yet, despite these rights, this linguistic minority group continues to experience challenges in accessing health care services. Using a structural violence framework, this study identifies the barriers to healthcare access of Deaf ASL users in one particular state - Rhode Island. More specifically, this study seeks to uncover the structural and social forces that constrain agency of Deaf ASL users in their attempts to access healthcare. Survey methodology is used to obtain both qualitative and quantitative data from 11 community stakeholder groups. Results show that Deaf ASL users in Rhode Island experience numerous structural barriers to accessing health care, including economic, civil, political, and cultural constraints. The structural disempowerment and reduced agency experienced by Deaf ASL users, perpetuated by the state’s institutionalized social structures, prevents Deaf ASL users from getting their health needs met. Implications for embodied health risks that result from human needs deprivation, trauma, and social disadvantage are discussed. Recommendations are offered on actions toward transformative justice, which can lead to greater fulfillment of human needs and realization of the inherent dignity, worth, and human rights of Deaf ASL users.