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City Increases Access to Language Services

Office of Equity and Inclusion contracts with local company, Valley Community Interpreters, to provide in-person interpretation, over-the-phone-interpretation and document translation

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The City’s Office of Equity and Inclusion is increasing access to city services for residents who need the aid of an interpreter in navigating local government. Local company Valley Community Interpreters is set to facilitate clear communication between the City and residents with limited English proficiency. The contract with VCI is funded by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation intended to increase participation by all people in the civic and economic life of Albuquerque.

“We started by equipping every police officer with a cell phone and a contact for over-the-phone interpretation. That was just the first step in making our city safer for officers and the people they interact with, no matter what language they speak,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “Now we’re expanding our language access efforts, using a local company to make city services available to folks who require the services of an interpreter.”

Through its contract with VCI, the Office of Equity and Inclusion is making language services available to a few of the City of Albuquerque departments that do not already have a language service provider on contract to translate public documents and provide both in-person and over-the-phone interpretation.

VCI will also train City employees on how to use interpreters both in person and over-the-phone.

“We are thrilled to be able to contract with a local non-profit organization whose founder is herself an immigrant and knowledgeable about the vital importance of providing timely, quality language access and cultural competence,” said Mariela Ruiz-Angel, Coordinator of the City of Albuquerque Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.

Cecilia Portal, a nationally certified interpreter, started VCI in Albuquerque in 2015 to meet two critical goals – ensure language access to people who do not speak or read English well, while also equipping bilingual people with the training and skills to break into a fast-growing profession of over-the-phone and on-site interpreting. VCI trains local residents who are bilingual on how to build a career as an interpreter.

“We’re very excited about working with the city,” Portal said. “It’s fantastic for Equity and Inclusion to be the advocate inside the city for language access and creating that awareness of how much better and more efficient services can be delivered using an interpreter. We are changing behaviors and having people think about language and how to use interpreters.”