As anyone who has read Speaking Healthcare knows, or anyone that has worked with viaLanguage for that matter, one of our key aims is to help ensure that language does not prevent equal access to healthcare for limited English proficient (LEP) patients.
A recent news item underscores that healthcare is not the only arena in which language can prove a frustrating and potentially damaging obstruction. Last week American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a legal brief in the state of Georgia for what can only be considered a dereliction of justice.
In the case in question, a Chinese (Mandarin) speaker was sentenced to 10 years in prison after a trial in which she did not understand any of the proceedings. According to reports, her own attorney failed to request an interpreter for fear of delaying the trial or annoying the jury.
And it’s not an issue unique to the U.S. Countries from Australia to South Africa to Korea are seeking to improve their legal interpreting standards and services. In Ireland, the Irish Times recently revisited a 2003 case in which a Mongolian man did not understand the reading of his rights, a breakdown that led to a review of standards that by the paper’s assessment has produced little benefit.
What seems clear is that just as challenges remain to ensuring equal access to healthcare for LEP patients, so too are their language barriers to an equal access to justice. The upside is that both failings can be easily rectified: It’s simply a matter of delivering effective translation services.