Interpreters Help People Speak Up and Claim Their Rights

What we learned from Alison Beyea, Executive Director of the ACLU of Maine

CLI’s CEO, Kristin Quinlan, had the honor of introducing one of the keynote speakers at the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC) Annual Membership Meeting last weekend. Alison Beyea is the executive director of the ACLU of Maine, and we were impressed with what she had to say. Beyea lauded the audience at NCIHC for doing important work to promote and protect language access, and reminded us that these efforts are part of a broader fight to protect a spectrum of rights guaranteed in this country.

Alison Beyea, Executive Director at the ACLU of Maine, giving a keynote speech at NCIHC.

The ACLU has been working for the past century to protect the rights of people all over the United States and promote equality. It has contributed to most of the court cases Americans can site by name, the cases that have defined our society: the Scopes trial; Brown v. Board of Education; Loving v. Virginia; Roe v. Wade; Texas v. Johnson; Obergefell v. Hodges.

Yet, as Alison Beyea asked in her keynote speech, “What good are rights if you can’t speak up and claim them for yourself?”

The work of interpreters contributes to two goals. Interpreters help people communicate in ordinary settings, like when limited English proficient (LEP) individuals speak to bank tellers, call customer service, or talk to their doctors. Interpreters integrate LEP people into society and help normalize the fact that not everyone in America speaks English.

The 2017-2019 NCIHC Board of Directors, leading advocates of language access in healthcare.

But interpreters also help LEPs do more than understand and be understood in quotidian situations. Interpreters give voice to people seeking to protect their right to education, to marriage, to healthcare, and to security. Interpreters lend a voice to the people seeking to establish a right to the ordinary services and functions many of us take for granted.

Both goals are intertwined and equally important. That is why CLI is so happy to have been the top level sponsor of this year’s NCIHC Annual Membership Meeting. NCIHC supports the professionals who actively bridge the gap between healthcare providers and patients who speak English less than very well. At the same time, NCIHC brings professionals together to advocate for language and healthcare access, and in both these wasy, works toward the greater goal of helping people speak up and claim their rights.

CLI was this year's platinum, "Warrior"-level sponsor of the NCIHC Annual Membership Meeting.

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