Volunteers fill language gap for ITD customers
An increasingly diverse society and work environment dictate that communication be available to constituents in a variety of formats. ITD is responding to the needs of its clients by offering language assistance on an impromptu basis for customers who do not speak English fluently.
To help improve language services provided at Headquarters and District 3, Karen Sparkman generated an Intranet-based list of about 18 ITD employees who are available on a limited basis to help communicate with customers.
“We have a number of volunteers who provide language assistance as their schedules allow,” said Sparkman, the department’s manager of Equal Employment Opportunities – External Programs. “It has worked well on an occasional basis, but not many people realize we have employees with those special abilities.”
To make those services more widely known, Sparkman recently added a Web page that lists 18 individuals capable of providing language assistance as the needs arise and when they can work it around their other duties. The list can be viewed at http://www.itd.idaho.gov/civil/interpret.htm
It also can be viewed on the Intranet by choosing the “Reference” link on the left menu and then go to “Interpreters” on the sub-list.
The list includes 11 employees who are proficient in Spanish, and covers a number of other languages from Bengali, Chinese and German to Swahili, Vietnamese, Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi. There’s even a resource for sign language (Vicki Johnson, Driver Services).
Management assistant Tammie Jauregui provided the initial list that Sparkman used to generate the page.
People who need the help of an interpreter to communicate with clients should refer to the page and make their own contact directly, Sparkman suggested.
“Please remember, though, that employees volunteer their services and are available as their schedules allow. It is not part of their normal work responsibilities. We want to be conscious of their other duties and respect their time. Too many requests could jeopardize the service.
“If the need is on a regular rather than an occasional basis, employees should budget for and use outside professional translators.” She suggested “Language Line,” (877-261-6608). A private language service available statewide.
The resource offers interpreter services for more than 150 languages. Use of the line requires setting up an account for billing the calls, which are charged by the minute. Customer service is available at 800-752-6096, ext. 1.
Sparkman also encourages other ITD employees who would be willing to provide occasional language assistance to contact her for addition to the list.
Sparkman is unsure how many individuals in the department are multi-lingual and could assist with translation needs. Many of the district offices also have staff members that can be called on to help. The greatest need appears to be for Spanish assistance in southwest Idaho.
ITD is covered by federal Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires government organizations to provide free language assistance to non-English speaking customers.