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Why Language Accessibilty Matters

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Inclusive language is becoming more common as companies across industries adjust how they communicate with their clients and customers. While that's a significant step forward, there's a bigger picture to consider: inclusive communication.

While inclusive language focuses on using the most appropriate words and phrases, inclusive communication refers to the overall accessibility of language. With true language accessibility, anyone who walks into your healthcare facility receives the resources and support they need to communicate and understand every conversation fully — no matter what language they speak. 

That means more than just relying on machine translations, hand gestures, or bilingual staff. Inclusive communication goes above and beyond that. Here are three reasons why true language accessibility matters.

Language Is More Than Just Words

In an age where tools like Google Translate are at our fingertips, it may seem like there's no such thing as a language barrier.

But that approach breaks down a language into words, which a machine then translates based on a statistical analysis of what's probably correct. Other machine translations rely on existing language rules, but that approach still looks at language as a combination of words.

Language is much more than words, statistics, and grammatical rules. It's a core part of every culture — and some might even argue that language is culture. 

Every culture thinks, acts, and uniquely processes events — and the language people use reflects that. For example, look at the Korean language. It has several ways to honor people in different positions because the culture values respect. Or consider Spanish, which uses the word "sobremesa" to describe the time people spend socializing after a meal because the culture values social connections and togetherness. 

Language and culture are deeply intertwined — so much so that you can't look at language without considering the culture. 

Unfortunately, many language access solutions — like machine translation — separate language from culture.

To fully honor an individual's culture, you must respect their language and offer comprehensive language access solutions. That way, they don't have to separate their culture from their communications and can truly express themselves.

Nothing Should Be Lost in Interpretation

We live in an increasingly diverse — and connected — world. You can receive news about current events on the other side of the world and chat with someone from virtually any other country. 

With this interconnectedness as the new normal, language accessibility shouldn't still be a problem — especially in areas like healthcare. We should expect to interact with people from different cultures and languages. That means having appropriate language service solutions in place well before someone asks for them. 

However, many healthcare facilities still need to offer such inclusive communication. A surprising 80% of healthcare facilities rely on family and friends to interpret for patients. And since they aren't professionally certified medical interpreters, that leaves ample room for error and misunderstanding. 

Instead, healthcare providers should provide true language accessibility to all patients and their families to ensure nothing gets lost in translation. 

Health Is a Human Right

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is a fundamental human right. That means "everyone should have access to the health services they need, when and where they need them, without suffering financial hardship." 

However, language has become a significant barrier to providing people with the necessary health services. When limited-English proficient (LEP) or Deaf and hard of hearing patients seek medical assistance, they often face a confusing situation where they don't understand everything that's going on. 

They may rely on their limited English skills to get by, but that can result in them not sharing essential information or fully understanding the treatment process. In these cases, the patient knows "enough English to be at risk."

Or the patient may rely on family members to interpret for them. But as mentioned above, that doesn't guarantee accurate interpretations. It can instead lead to the family member talking for the patient and not fully communicating what the patient's experiencing. 

The problem doesn't just surface when a patient arrives at a healthcare facility. In many cases, it happens well before. For example, a 2011 study explains that Deaf patients typically see physicians much less frequently than hearing individuals.

Again, the answer is simple. True language accessibility and comprehensive language access solutions can ensure that LEP, Deaf, and hard of hearing patients receive the care they need and deserve. 

Invest in Language Accessibility to Offer Superior Patient Care

Inclusive communication is not a nice idea or something to consider down the road. It's a must-have in today's world, especially in the healthcare industry. The existing diverse population deserves to have the same healthcare rights as native English speakers, which means facilities need to reexamine what accessibility really means and how language plays a significant part in it.

To learn more about what true language accessibility looks like and how to implement it, download GLOBO's latest guide: Language Accessibility: What it Means & Why it Matters. 


Download the Guide

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