What are “language assistance services”?
“Language assistance services” is a broad term that includes but is not limited to:
- Interpretation in non-English languages provided in-person or remotely by a qualified interpreter for an individual who communicates with sign language or in a spoken language other than English.
- The use of qualified bilingual or multilingual staff to communicate directly with individuals who communicate with sign language or in a spoken language other than English.
- Written translation, performed by a qualified translator, of written content in paper or electronic form into languages other than English.
- Auxiliary aids and services such as assistive listening systems and devices; captioning and communication access real-time translation (CART); text telephones (711 TTY); videophones; captioned telephones; allowing more time to communicate; the use of communication boards; diagrams; digital tablets; picture diagrams or other devices.
See Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act and the Northwest ADA Center Effective Communication in Healthcare website.
What is the difference between translation and interpretation?
Interpretation and translation are often used interchangeably but they are not the same. Each is a profession and require specialized knowledge and skill.
- Translation is the conversion of written language from one language (source language) to a different language (target language).
- Interpretation is the conversion of spoken or signed utterances from one language (source language) into a different language (the target language).
Being bilingual or multilingual does not automatically mean that you have the distinct professional skill set to translate or interpret. Translation and Interpretation services are professions.
What is a qualified interpreter?
According to Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the corresponding Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) at 45 CFR Part 92 (Section 1557), a qualified interpreter means an interpreter who via a remote interpreting service or an onsite appearance adheres to generally accepted interpreter ethics principles, including client confidentiality; and
- For an individual with a disability, is able to interpret effectively, accurately and impartially both receptively and expressively using any necessary specialized vocabulary terminology and phraseology.
- For an individual with limited English proficiency (LEP), has demonstrated proficiency in speaking and understanding both spoken English and at least one other spoken language; and is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively and expressly, to and from such languages and English, using any necessary specialized vocabulary, terminology and phraseology.
Interpreters who are deemed qualified or certified by OHA’s Health Care Interpreter Training Program should meet or exceed all of these qualifications. Qualified and certified interpreters are listed on OHA’s Health Care Interpreter Registry.
How does OHA determine who is a certified or qualified interpreter?
Certified interpreters are required to pass national oral and written exams. Those exams are currently available only in:
Oregon certified and qualified Health Care Interpreters meet or exceed all of the requirements for qualification under Section 1557 of the ACA. For a detailed list of OHA’s Health Care Interpreter requirements, please visit the Health Care Interpreter Training Program page.
Can the patient’s family member or friend act as an interpreter?
No, unless the patient is told that free qualified health care interpreter services are available and the patient specifically asks that their adult family member or friend interpret instead. If this occurs, it is best practice to note that in the patient record that:
- A qualified health care interpreter was offered, and
- The patient declined and specifically asked for the accompanying adult interpret.
Children cannot be chosen as interpreters. Title VI and Section 1557 prohibit the use of children as interpreters or requiring that the patient bring their own interpreter unless there is an emergency involving an imminent threat to the safety or welfare of an individual or the public.