Crossing language barrier in virtual meetings

By Megan Wehring

COVID-19 changed the way city staff communicates with the public. Virtual meetings are the new reality. How can a language barrier be prevented in this scenario?

Kyle City Council is one of many to move their meetings to an online format. While there is a Spanish speaking population in Kyle, council member Dex Ellison draws attention to those who rely on American Sign Language (ASL).

“Whether that’s securing a contracted service to always have the ability to translate whenever we need,” Ellison said. “I think we need to be definitely cognitive of those services. Who knows how long we will be in this virtual world as well.”

City Manager Scott Sellers ensures there are translation services already taking place.

“The court has a contract for an ASL interpreter,” Sellers said. “We also have the voice program that the police department has been utilizing that is now in the budget. They also have ASL options as a part of their program.”

City staff has been continuously reaching out to the Spanish speaking population to give them information about COVID-19 as necessary. Samantha Armbruster, director of communications, said she believes they have the resources available to continue reaching out to all members of the community.

“We have a number of staff members that have been tested and certified to help us with Spanish translation.”

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