Equal Access Language Services invited to participate on Ignite Annapolis

Carol Velandia, CEO of Equal Access Language Services was selected to speak at Ignite Annapolis. In five minutes she expresses the need to disrupt the concepts of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion by incorporating Language Access as a key component.

Words can kill. The word INTOXICADO left Willy Ramírez quadriplegic. It sounds like “Intoxicated” but it means food poisoning in Spanish. When willy arrived to the hospital, instead of using a professional interpreter, the doctor used a bilingual family member, who mistranslated the word intoxicado as intoxicated, the doctor assumed Willy was drunk and delayed treatment. They discovered too late that Willie had suffered a massive aneurism and that time was of the essence to prevent the damage he suffered.
This terrible scenario could have been prevented if effective communication and language access policies such as offering professional interpretation had been in place.
In 2013 the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality demonstrated that Limited English proficient persons (that amount to 29 million people) suffer severe harm in hospitals at a rate of 4 times more than English speakers. They also demonstrated that bilingual untrained ad-hoc persons will cause errors with detrimental consequences in 22% of the cases.
When I provided interpretation services for Jose, the patient that inspires me to advocate for language access, I realized how our health is our most important asset and how communication can make the difference between life and death. Jose left Honduras fleeing gang violence to save his life. When he arrived to the united states, he had his health and body to be able to work… that was his only asset. But then, he got sick, went to the hospital, they didn’t have an interpreter and he had to wait 2 more months for a diagnosis. Meanwhile he got more ill. After all he went through to come here and save his life, we failed him, Jose was victimized one more time.
Language not only provides access to culture, ideas, values, thoughts, and emotions. It is a powerful too! In medicine, communication is the most important diagnostic tool and in law it is the link to due process. Language is a key to access, social justice, and peace.
The paradox is that Current definitions of cultural competency describe the ability to understand, communicate and effectively interact with people across cultures, however, it assumes that interactions occur within the same LANGUAGE. Similarly Diversity, Equity and Inclusion trainings are not designed to help organizations include the linguistically diverse population that they serve.
This oversight impacted Jose greatly and it is impacting 29 million people in the United States that don’t speak English. They experience more misdiagnoses, surgical delays, falls, and in general, worse outcomes in healthcare and other public and private services than the English speaking population.
How can we talk about Diversity, Equity, or Inclusion when we are regularly excluding 30 million people in the United States from effective access to services and effective communication! This is not only discriminatory and unethical, it is a bad and myopic business practice.
This is the problem I want to solve. I want to disrupt and expand the concept of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion by incorporating language access as a key component. I want true inclusion in our business practices and that is why I created: EITLA, a corporate training that stands for Effective Inclusion Through Language Access (EITLA).
With EILA I want to drive three main points:
Not offering effective communication is denying access, and that is discriminatory. Period. No ifs, ands or buts.
You need to work with professional linguists: Interpreters for the spoken and sign language and translators for v the written word.
Regardless or the size of your business or your industry, you need to include a a language access plan, budget for it! You need to include the multilingual population that you serve in your strategic vision, Make it a part of your operative expenses. You will see that doing good by including an underserved population will help you do well in your business and your bottom line.
My mission is to make language access as universal and as effective as hand sanitizer. I want to invite you to share my vision of a more competent, equitable, accessible, and inclusive society where language is used as an equalizer.

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