Friday, May 27, 2011

Stronger Advocacy for Language Access in the Courts

The National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) to Provide a Tool for Advocates
The growing recognition of the need for quality language services for Limited English Proficiency (LEP) individuals has resulted in a widespread call for stronger advocacy, and more advocates, for the provision of quality services. Agencies, associations, groups, and individuals, including judicial and healthcare interpreters, are said to be advocates for the provision of quality language services to LEP persons.  But what does it mean to be an advocate? How do we go about it? To do advocacy, the best of intentions are very noble, but they fall short if it they are not backed by a good knowledge of the facts underlying a specific issue – the provision of quality language services in this case.  Advocates need the capacity to make a compelling case for quality services for LEP individuals by providing examples of the negative effects when they are not available. Likewise, advocates need to cite the positive outcomes that implementation of stronger policies will produce.  All this must be targeted to the interests and needs of the various constituencies involved in the decisions that affect services for LEP individuals.
As indicated in previous postings, much has been done to provide services of various kinds to Limited English Proficient individuals in the courts, and similar progress has been made in health care centers and the community at large.  During its 2011 Annual Conference, held in Long Beach (California), NAJIT announced that it would shortly make available on its website a document providing information on the who, what, where, why, and how of judicial interpreting in the US.  In explaining the reasons why the services of a qualified interpreter should be offered in legal proceedings, NAJIT’s document will include landmark cases, like the U.S. ex rel Negrón v. New York 434 F2d 386 (1970), linking language access with constitutional rights.  The document will also include information on the role and qualifications of judicial interpreters, and discuss the cost of judicial interpreting – including the social and monetary cost of NOT providing quality interpreting services to LEP individuals. 
With this document, that is expected to be available on the Association´s website within the next few days, NAJIT hopes to provide in a single place information that has until now been scattered and hard to find. Of course, effective advocacy requires specific skills and strategies, and preparing advocates could be an area an association like NAJIT can and should tackle.
In times where a great number of entities and individuals still resist complying with laws, rulings, and executive orders regarding language access for LEP individuals, advocates need good tools to make a strong and compelling case regarding the provision of quality language. NAJIT’s new document is an excellent place to look. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

National Council on Interpreting in Health Care Holds 5th Annual Membership Meeting

I created this blog during the 2010 holidays and have kept it in 'survival' mode.
However, surviving is not what this blog is intended for. Now that the school year is over and many professional associations’ annual conferences have taken place, I will be reporting more frequently on events that contribute to the development of translation and interpretation in the US.
My first of these postings is to congratulate the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC) for a very successful 5th Annual membership meeting – the first for this blogger.  Held in New Orleans, May 19-20, 2011 just days after releasing its National Standards for Healthcare Interpreting Training Programs, the meeting was one where members truly got the opportunity to express their views on a wide array of topics. Of course, an important piece was the presentation of the standards of training, along with a checklist reflecting the three main areas included in them (knowledge, skills, and programmatic issues) as a tool for all interested parties to assess training programs. Ideally, NCIHC will remain open to suggestions to improve and update these standards as interpreting in healthcare evolves
Two other activities stood out during this 5th membership meeting: the Language Access Café and the Work Groups. The former provided members with the opportunity to learn about and provide feedback on aspects of language access in contexts as diverse as emergency and disaster response, pharmacy services, medical home services, mental health, and end of life. It is easy to forget how important language access is in moments of crises. First responders, for example, have only a few minutes before rushing a patient to a hospital or healthcare center. Language barriers make their task even more challenging. The Work Groups at the NCIHC meeting provided an outstanding opportunity for members to provide feedback on NCIHC projects such as certification, training for trainers, policy, and technology.
As I indicated in a previous posting, NCIHC has a five-step strategy to contribute to the development of the healthcare interpreting profession; the fifth step being certification. Certification in court interpreting came before education and training. This was how the urgent need for qualified interpreters was addressed, but it seems that NCIHC has taken the time to analyze alternative ways to go about it and has come to the conclusion that certification should come after education. As an educator, it only makes sense to me that certification, i.e. testing, should come after education and training.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Standards for Interpreter Training in Health Care just released

After a few weeks of silence, I am back with exciting news on medical interpreting in the U.S.

The National Consortium on Interpreting on Health Care (NCIHC) has just released the National Standards for Healthcare Interpreter Training Programs, which sets guidelines for formal preparation of bilingual and multilingual individuals who wish to enter the healthcare interpreting profession.  While these standards are expected to change as the profession evolves, they are intended to provide a common and consistent base of knowledge and competence aspiring health care interpreters should have.

These guidelines benefit program developers and administrators, trainers, interpreter candidates, consumers of interpreter services, and anyone else concerned about interpreter quality.  The standards are articulated around the areas of program content, instructional method, and program operation.  They address knowledge and skills that should be taught, teaching and learning methods that can be used, and issues related to the operation of programs, including program design, admission requirements, instructor qualifications, and student assessment.

The Standards for Healthcare Interpreter Training Programs is the fourth of a five-step strategy set forth by NCIHC to contribute to the development of the healthcare interpreting field. The strategy started in 2001 with the publication of a conceptual paper on the role of health care interpreters. It continued with the National Code of Ethics for Interpreters in Health Care, published in 2004. Next came the National Standards of Practice, released in 2006; followed by the National Standards for Healthcare Interpreter Training Programs, which were released a few days ago.  The next and final step is certification, where efforts are already being made.

These are exciting times for healthcare interpreters and the interpreting professional in general in the U.S.   Click here for the NCIHC Naional Standards for Healthcare Interpreter Training Programs.