What We Do

WASCLA educates communities, institutions, and organizations about the importance of ensuring LEP and Deaf individuals can communicate when seeking services crucial to their wellbeing. This includes educating about the legal framework for language access rights and responsibilities; countering anti-immigrant narratives; sharing the components of effective language services delivery and skill sets of qualified interpreters and translators; and engaging in policy work.

Our Mission

To ensure the provision and delivery of effective legal, medical, social services to Limited English Proficient (LEP) residents in Washington State through the collaborative efforts of interpreters, translators, and service providers.

Examples of Language Access Barriers

  • A Monolingual Spanish-speaking woman called 911 on a Friday morning. She was not able to speak to the operator because of the lack of language and eventually hung up. However, two non-Spanish-speaking officers did show up at the apartment where she and her husband were living with their two children and extended family. The family woke up a 17-year-old nephew sleeping on the couch to act as the interpreter. Officers did not arrest the husband. After they left, the woman went to the Mexican Consulate seeking help. The Consulate told her about getting an Order for Protection. The woman, accompanied by her relatives, went to the Courthouse where she filed a Petition for an Order for Protection with the assistance of the court facilitators. By the time she completed the paperwork, it was too late for the Commissioner to hear the case. The woman was told to return on Monday. The husband killed her on Sunday morning, at the family home, while the rest of the family was in the apartment, including the children.
  • A woman was ill. The medical facility where she sought services did not provide her with an interpreter. She could not speak English and repeatedly attempted to tell the doctor and nurses her symptoms without proper translation. The hospital ended up treating the patient for the wrong illness. As a result, the patient died.
  • There are systemic problems in some family courts. In one particular county they have instituted orientations for family law actions where they explain the process to unrepresented clients. They also offer an opportunity to start mediating and taking parenting classes. They did not consider LEP issues when they set up that system. Their response has been to get an untrained court employee to come in to do the interpretation for them because this is technically not a judicial proceeding. When attorneys advocated for changes, the response was that they would send a clerk to Spanish classes. Eventually, the court decided to waive the requirement of LEP clients participating in the orientation.
  • A woman staying in a local shelter was treated disrespectfully. The client was deemed uncooperative because she was unaware of the rules. The client had not eaten anything because she did not know what she could eat from the common areas because the shelter had not provided an interpreter to her. The client did not receive the same level of support as other clients. The client’s purse was stolen and the shelter did not provide any assistance with filing a police report but told her to file it on her own. The shelter failed to provide interpretation for many of their conversations with her.

History of WASCLA

The US Department of Justice allocated funds to create a Northwest Regional Six-State Summit in May 2005. The summit brought together participants from these states to discuss and develop plans to improve access and delivery of services to immigrant victims of domestic violence in their states.
Representatives of Washington State identified Limited English Proficiency (LEP) as a systemic social justice barrier that prevented immigrant survivors from accessing available resources. They identified the need for an action plan to improve interpreter/translation services for immigrant survivors to access legal services, medical care, and other community services.
Washington State has many organizations and institutions providing services to immigrant survivors in the areas of domestic violence, sexual assault, victims of other crimes such as trafficking, advocacy, immigration, public benefits, family law, and government services. All of them have identified the lack of adequate interpretation and cultural awareness as a major barrier to the ability of immigrant survivors to access help.
Participants from the original summit meeting were: (1) Leticia Camacho, Northwest Justice Project; (2) Neha Chandola, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project; (3) Martha Cohen, King County Superior Court Interpreter Services; (4) Gillian Dutton, Northwest Justice Project; (5) Sandra Gresl, Chaya; (6) Sunil Mansukhani, Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division (7) Denise Marti, Columbia Legal Services; (8) Carrie Mitchell, King County Sheriff's Office; (9) Atieno Odhiambo, Columbia Legal Services; (10) Jason Reed, Department of Social and Health Services; (11) Kathy Rice, KC Protection Order Advocacy Program, formerly Consejo; (12) Sudha Shetty, Seattle University Access to Justice Institute; (13) Harvey Sloan, Seattle Police Department; (14)Dorothy Stefan,U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; (15)Tiffany Tull, Seattle University Access to Justice Institute.
Following the initial meeting in 2005, participants from Washington State continued to meet periodically to continue the work identified at the summit and to expand the work out to serve all immigrants with limited English proficiency.
Since that first meeting, WASCLA went on to become incorporated at the state level, was approved as an independent 501 (c)(3) organization, and is known as a leader for its education and advocacy work for language access. WASCLA services include:
  • Language Access Update Open Conference Calls
  • Statewide Language Access Summit
  • Policy Research, Analysis, and Advocacy
  • Consultation services
  • Customized training on language access topics
  • Interpreter & Translator Directory
  • Collaborations with local, state and national partners and communities

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