One aspect of this international health crisis that should stick in our minds is the fact that maintenance of public health means all members of the public. Viruses do not discriminate. To be successful in mitigating them, public health initiatives should not, either.
To this end, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has provided a bulletin to ensure that entities covered by civil rights authorities know that civil rights laws around language are not set aside during an emergency.
These laws and regulations prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, and religion in HHS-funded programs. They include providing meaningful access to services for people with limited English proficiency, and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing through the provision of language assistance services, such as oral language assistance and written translation.
“HHS is committed to leaving no one behind during an emergency,” OCR Director Roger Severino said. “Providers should not place persons … needing accommodations at the end of the line for health services during emergencies.”
According to OCR, government officials, healthcare providers, and other covered entities should adopt the following practices (if they have not already):
- Employing qualified interpreter services to assist individuals with limited English proficiency and individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing;
- Making emergency messaging available in languages prevalent in the affected area and in multiple formats, such as audio, large print, and captioning;
- Ensuring that websites providing emergency-related information are accessible;
- Making use of multiple outlets and resources for messaging to reach individuals with disabilities, individuals with limited English proficiency;
- Closed-captioning videos containing public-service announcements;
- Providing American Sign Language interpreters during press conferences in which public-safety information is provided.
LanguageLine can help
For nearly four decades, LanguageLine has provided interpretation and translation solutions to entities covered by civil rights authorities, allowing them to provide meaningful access to citizens who speak limited English or are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.
LanguageLine has long supported a work-at-home model for its own operations and remains fully operational during this health crisis. We’ve partnered with some of our customers for decades, through tumultuous times and events, to ensure quality language access. We are here now with the same mission.
Please contact us so that we can learn more about the linguistic or cultural challenges your organization may be facing.