Are Interpreters Really a Necessity?

What would you do if an individual walked into your place of work and did not speak English? Would you know if this person is legally entitled to an interpreter? Better yet, would you provide the individual an interpreter, or would you turn them away because you were not able to communicate with them? Many people do not know the answers to these questions and the consequences that are associated with them.

Am I obligated to provide an interpreter for an individual?

The right to an interpreter is a civil right. If you deny an individual this right you are discriminating against them. Language discrimination is national origin discrimination. It is discrimination based on what country you came from. If a federally funded agency does not provide an interpreter, this can be national origin discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Denying the right to an interpreter could create financial and reputational liability to you personally and to your business. This was the case for Creighton University after they denied access to an interpreter for one of their deaf students. Because of this action, Creighton University must now defend itself in federal court.

Who must pay for interpreting services?

Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, if you receive any money from the federal government, you are required by law to pay for interpreting services. Even if providing an interpreter could pose a financial hardship to your business, you are still legally required by law to provide the individual an interpreter. This may seem like a waste of resources for a business. However, the cost of an interpreter will be significantly less than the liability associated with legal action in federal court.

How do I know what language to provide?

Now that we have established the fact that it is illegal to deny someone an interpreter, you might be thinking, “How do I provide an interpreter if I do not know what language they might be speaking?”

An easy way to determine what language a patient speaks is to have “I Speak” signsi_speak_card visibly displayed throughout your workplace.

“I Speak” signs are posters that state, “I speak (insert language) and I need an interpreter.” All the prospective client needs to do is point to the language that they speak. As a result, you will not only know they need an interpreter but also what language they need the interpreter to speak.

For help creating “I Speak” signs, or to schedule an interpreter, please contact us. We’d be glad to help keep you out of court!

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