The Washington State Coalition for Language Access (WASCLA) was created in 2005 with the support of the Washington state legislature to find new ways to enforce Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race or national origin in all government programmes. WASCLA strives to guarantee easy access to translators and interpreters for all citizens with limited English proficiency, offers education and training services, organises summits and advocates for language access rights in general.
WASCLA and Health Care
In 2012, WASCLA released their Interpreter and Translator Directory, an online database with lists of interpreters and translators within the Washington state. This was thought as a solution for the American healthcare system, which can be unprepared to deal with patients with limited English proficiency. WASCLA seeks to eliminate these linguistic barriers to guarantee citizens’ access to healthcare, as it has been proven that patients with limited English proficiency have to suffer a greater percentage of medical errors, have to go through more unnecessary tests, tend to spend more time in hospital and have greater chances of being re-admitted.
WASCLA has also recently launched “Tools for Health”, a programme to help citizens access linguistic services. The programme is focused on the 31 most commonly spoken languages in Washington apart from English. One of its measures includes a system in which patients with limited English proficiency are given “I Speak” cards, which makes it easier for them to tell hospital service providers that they do not speak English and speak a different language instead and to ask for the appropriate interpreter.
Other Areas of Interest
WASCLA is also working with inequalities in the legal system, courtrooms and the workplace, as well as with the area of human trafficking and the resources to prevent it. According to WASCLA founding member Joana Ramos, everyone can help WASCLA in the pursuit of its goals by educating themselves, learning about the institution, and fighting for equality.
The WASCLA Institution
WASCLA is made up of legal professionals, interpreters, translators and court personnel, all of whom are dedicated to help institutions within Washington state understand and comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. WASCLA was created after the Northwest Regional Six-State Summit in May 2005, where Washington representatives identified a lack of translation and interpreting services within the organisations that helped immigrant communities access legal, health and other community services.