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Announcing InterpretAmerica 2020: An Online Event to Help Us Ensure Access to Interpreting

2020 is InterpretAmerica's 10th anniversary year. We had been planning a celebratory event. But now, COVID-19 has crashed into everyone's world and up-ended our beloved profession in a matter of weeks. We now know what our focus needs to be.​ We are organizing the first in what we hope will be a series of free, online meetings where our field can meet, take stock, and get unified to face the extreme disruption COVID-19 is causing to our profession and to the language access we make possible.

This first meeting will take place next week in a 2-hour free, online forum on March 26.

We hope you attend and participate - there will be many ways to provide feedback and help our profession problem solve during this critical time. All are invited. All are welcome.

With almost all onsite interpreting shut down across the board, from healthcare, to courts and from schools to international diplomacy, remote interpreting has become our most important pathway to save our jobs and protect those who need our services. Check out our recent blog detailing this situation.

This first meeting will feature a blend of five-minute talks representing key areas of our field and the interactive use of the polling tool Mentimeter to get audience feedback. We hope to spur the creation of a profession-wide task force that will proactively collaborate to get resources, knowledge and expertise where it is needed.

Each of us has critical expertise, whether we are an individual practitioner, language company owner, professional association, remote interpreting platform (OPI, VRI, RSI*), buyer of interpreting services, an end user or a legal expert or advocate. If we want to have a say in how the inevitable transition to remote takes place, we have to act now.​*OPI is telephonic interpreting, VRI is video remote interpreting, including for signed

languages, and RSI is remote simultaneous interpreting.

Our profession urgently needs to focus on the following questions:

  • What can we do to help our face-to-face workforce ,whose work has disappeared overnight, get work if they want to as remote interpreters? How can they be visible to those who need to hire them?

  • How can we help our language service companies access remote platforms (telephonic and video) to dispatch work to their linguists? They have many white labeling options. They don’t have to start from zero.

  • How can we help hospitals, schools, businesses, institutions and governments get connected to remote interpreting platforms and services so that they can continue to provide multilingual services?

  • How can we preserve the laws and policies that require language access - some of which may soon be waived?

  • And how can we advocate to make sure our freelance linguists and small businesses are included in state and federal relief packages?​We can't do this without you.

At the time of publishing this blog, here is our preliminary agenda - be sure to check the website for updates to confirmed speakers and topics.

Our end goal is to suggest the creation of a profession-wide task force where our key associations and stakeholders can serve as a focal point for a cohesive response for the field as a whole: from immigrant language access (legal and community-medical) to international organization work (conference) to advocacy and legal issues. As InterpretAmerica, we would like to participate and support such a task force, but not be its “owner” in any way. We need something much more broad.

Please join us on Thursday, March 26 to help us forge a unified response to COVID-19.


Katharine Allen and Barry S. Olsen


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