Imagine this: You are a young child in a home where your parents don’t speak English. You walk into your kitchen to see you mother collapsed on the floor an you call emergency the ER. Since she doesn’t speak English, you are her interpreter (Learn why children shouldn’t be interpreters). You’re sitting in the waiting room, and a staff member asks you to sign a release form so that your mother can have an emergency procedure. The form is in English, and you barely understand what it says, but you sign it because you don’t know what else to do. This could end a multitude of ways, but simply put, a child doesn’t understand the risks they are agreeing to, and shouldn’t be signing vital medical forms.
Limited English proficiency individuals deserve the same access to services regardless of the language they speaks, through interpreters (spoken) and translators (written).
The problem is not simply the use of children as interpreters, but actually the use of untrained individuals. Even the use of older family members can cause issues. Read NPR’s story on how the simple misinterpretation of one word ruined a man’s life.
Stories like this can be changed through access to trained and experienced interpreters and translators. According to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, 1964, any organization receiving federal funds must provide language access to their limited English proficiency clients. This includes funds from Medicare and Medicaid.
These days, most hospitals are compliant, at least in the major languages. But other industries aren’t, and the risks to limited English proficiency individuals is huge.
Imagine borrowing money, opening a bank account, or applying for credit card without speaking or understanding English. All these actions require you to sign some sort of legally binding agreement. And if you don’t understand it, you may end up as a victim of fraud. In fact, Hispanics are victims of fraud more than double non-Hispanic whites.
As a company or organization, one way in which you can help is to use professional services for interpretation and website or document translation. This not only eases the burden to LEP individuals, but can have profound impact on your business’ profits. Check back for our next blog as we talk about how language access can benefit your business.
See what we are doing in the community to improve language access.