Protecting Interpreters and Their Clients: An Introduction to the Interpreters Guild of America

By Johanna Valle Sobalvarro

Protecting Interpreters and Their Clients

The Interpreters Guild of America (IGA) is a unit of the NewsGuild-CWA, a union representing journalists, interpreters and translators, social justice workers, and nonprofit and public-sector professionals. Its main purpose is to protect the rights of interpreters, who bear tremendous responsibilities and are vulnerable to a number of professional challenges.

IGA’s role

IGA assists freelancers in educating themselves about the business of interpreting through continuing education and helps them to understand the steps needed to improve working conditions. These aspects of interpreting practice are very important, because in many interpreter-training programs, the focus is mainly on techniques and vocabulary. That leaves new interpreters unaware of what is necessary to protect themselves against exploitation and fraud.

Ongoing training is available to IGA members free of charge. Topics include reading and enforcing contracts as well as proper billing, collection, marketing, and accounting practices. As the only professional interpreters’ organization that tracks the reputation of language agencies that hire freelancers, we accomplish this by querying members about their interactions with agencies. In this way, colleagues keep each other informed about unscrupulous agencies that don’t pay for services provided.

IGA encourages certification to promote professionalism and simultaneously protect limited English proficient (LEP) clients by ensuring that they are being assisted by a trained professional. An untrained bilingual might not be familiar with interpreting techniques or understand the importance of the protocols and the code of ethics that bind interpreters.

In addition to offering educational opportunities, IGA also lobbies Sacramento for better work conditions for freelancers working in state courts and in the workers’ compensation system. In 2014, IGA helped pass Assembly Bill (AB) 2370, which requires that during court proceedings, the court interpreter’s certification number be read aloud and thereby become part of the proceedings. This has helped discourage uncertified and untrained interpreters from trying to work on legal cases for which they do not have proper credentials. This not only protects the work of certified interpreters but also helps protect the person using the interpreter by ensuring that a competent professional is presenting their case.

Currently, AB 2370 applies only to court interpreters, but the IGA is working to amend it to require certification for medical interpreters involved in workers’ compensation cases. In the present law (California Evidence Code section 755.5), there is a loophole that allows insurance company adjusters to “provisionally qualify and use” an uncertified interpreter when a certified interpreter is not available. Agencies use this loophole to avoid paying professional rates for certified medical interpreters and instead hire untrained persons for a third of the rate. These ad-hoc interpreters have no training in vocabulary, diagnosis, or protocols and can put injured workers at risk by misinterpreting their diagnosis, treatment, or legal case. This is especially true in medical-legal evaluations, which are the only opportunities for the injured worker to be heard and evaluated by an independent doctor. We argue that allowing “provisional qualification” of untrained medical interpreters disregards the well-being of the injured worker.

My role

As a member of the California Commission on Access to Justice and Chair of the Language Access Committee, I focus attention on certification issues in the California Division of Workers’ Compensation. This involves advocating actively with the Commission to ensure that the problems in the workers’ compensation system are recognized as a major violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. I am encouraging the Commission to support IGA’s efforts to amend AB 2370 to make medical certification of interpreters for injured workers mandatory.

I’m also working to direct more attention to the issue of the legal aid agencies across the state that are relying on untrained volunteers to act as interpreters, putting the legal cases of low-income Californians in jeopardy. Legal aid agencies rely heavily on funding from the State of California to help people in need: having access to credentialed interpreters is imperative to protect low-income persons, and in fact protects all Californians seeking legal aid

For more information about the Interpreters Guild of America, please visit www.interpretersguild.org.

Slow Translation, Scamming the Scammer, and More – Translorial Fall 2016 Edition

Translorial Vol 38, No. 2

NCTA members can download the Fall 2016 edition of the Translorial in print and downloadable PDF versions, covering a variety of topics.

If you are not an NCTA member, you can join here.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Table of contents of the Translorial Fall 2016 edition, Vol. 38, No. 2: → continue reading

MEDICAL TERMINOLOGY BOOTCAMP

Considered a “dead language” by some, Latin continues to flourish in the world of Science and Medicine. Bootcamp attendees get the breakdown. BY MIKE KARPA

Marlene V. Obermeyer guided interpreters and translators through the lingo of medicine and the human body in an eight-hour medical terminology bootcamp held June 30, 2012, six floors above Market Street at the San Francisco State downtown campus. Obermeyer, a long-time registered nurse with a Masters degree, offers online training in medical interpreting and terminology from her base in Kansas through Culture Advantage and Virginia College. She also gives a handful of medical terminology bootcamps annually around the country through the IMIA. Carlos Garcia of the IMIA has been trying to schedule a bootcamp in San Francisco for some time, and he and NCTA organizer Sarah Llewellyn were delighted to be able to jointly host Obermeyer. → continue reading

LANGUAGE SPECIALISTS AND HEALTH CARE

Medical interpreters are a critical link between patients and providers. BY CARLOS L. GARCÍA, CMI

Medical interpreters are those language specialists that help patients and providers communicate when they do not speak the same language.

This critical link that needs to be established between health care providers and patients has gone widely unchecked since 1964, with the passing of the Civil Rights Act, which goes on to say in its Title VI, Section 602 that “no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” → continue reading

PROGRESS REPORT ON MEDICAL INTERPRETER CERTIFICATION

National Medical Interpreter Certification was a hot topic at the  2009 ATA Conference. BY LINDA JOYCE

The National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters was very pleased to participate in the  ATA 50th Annual Conference, held in New York City on October 28-31, 2009 and to introduce conference attendees to the nation’s first National Medical Interpreter Certification. → continue reading

THE 8TH ANNUAL CHIA CONFERENCE

The California Healthcare Interpreting Association (CHIA) celebrated its 8th Annual Conference in Costa Mesa, California during the weekend of April 11-12. BY JUDIT MARIN

The theme of this year’s Conference was “From Grass Roots to Redwoods: the Growth of Healthcare Interpreting in California.” In her welcoming remarks, Elizabeth Nguyen, CHIA’s newly elected President, noted that during the past few decades, tremendous demographic changes have continued to present new challenges as well as opportunities for healthcare providers, language providers, individual interpreters, and educational institutions to work together towards the common goal of improving access to health care for our diverse communities.

→ continue reading