We often discuss what is at stake when language barriers prevent limited English proficient patients from enjoying equal access to healthcare. The recent stories about the failure of pharmacists in New York and elsewhere to ensure labeling is adapted to LEP patients points up the very real risks.
Sometimes, events outside of healthcare can just as effectively underscore how critical effective, experienced, accessible language translation can be. Consider the recent situation on a Greyhound bus traveling from Maine to New York.
You may have seen the story in the papers. Last week, when passing through New Hampshire, passengers found their world turned upside down by a bomb scare. A standoff followed in which one of the passengers, a man from the Africa nation of Burundi, failed to exit the bus after police officers had it surrounded.
Nine tense and potentially very dangerous hours followed, but was resolved very quickly when an interpreter finally arrived on the scene. According to reports, the man became very cooperative once he heard his language being used and the police immediately realized he was neither a threat nor a terrorist.
In medical translation, it can be easy to get focused on the individual materials or campaigns on which we are working. But incidents like this remind us yet again that the failure to provide language access can have more profound consequences than a simple breakdown in communication.