Altamirano-Crosby aims to provide COVID-19 information to non-English speakers
By Erin Freeman | Lynnwood Times Staff
COVID-19 is impacting lives across that state, and government officials are working to provide communities with important information about the virus. However, a lack of translated material creates a language barrier, putting non-English speakers at greater risk.
At the March 23 City Council business meeting, Lynnwood City Councilmember Julieta Altamirano-Crosby publicly introduced her frustration with the lack of communication resources available for community members with language barriers.
“My heart is with all the community. My heart is with the marginalized and underserved communities,” stated Altamirano-Crosby. “Even though we have all the communication tools, all this beautiful information, there are communities that still have no idea how to navigate the system right now.”
During the meeting, Altamirano-Crosby announced that she feels responsible for ensuring that Lynnwood’s diverse communities have access to the city’s communication mediums.
“I would like to utilize my skills. I am bilingual. The city of Lynnwood has a lot of people that belong to the diverse communities; they are not able to speak the English language and it’s a big barrier,” stated Altamirano-Crosby.
Altamirano-Crosby specializes in collaboration and relationship-building in educational institutions and government settings. After moving to Washington from Guerrero, Mexico in 2009, she says she committed herself to doing whatever she can to create inclusive environments for marginalized and underserved communities.
“I experienced a language barrier in my shoes. It’s hard and it’s painful,” explained Altamirano-Crosby. “When I came to this country, I wasn’t able to speak English, so I didn’t have a voice for two years. I didn’t have the language, the skill to navigate.”
Providing timely information about social distancing, health district recommendations, and presumptive positive protocols is key to mitigating the community spread of COVID-19. To help fill the gap in information, Altamirano-Crosby is working to provide Spanish translations for updates from the City of Lynnwood. She is also reaching out to leaders and organizations supporting communities speaking additional languages, to see if they have the capacity to translate the information about COVID-19.
Altamirano-Crosby says her goal is to eventually centralize all of the translations of information the City of Lynnwood is sharing to create an accessible kiosk for everyone.
“We have to figure out how to develop appropriate communication that is effective and transparent,” said Altamirano-Crosby.
The City of Lynnwood’s website is translatable into five different languages but provides an automated Google-translated version of its site. While this provides a basic understanding of the information, the translation is not always accurate.
Altamirano-Crosby points out that specific supports and information can also vary from community to community. Organizations normally engage in specific strategies and practices to support their communities, and Altamirano-Crosby says they have taken to their social media platforms to respond directly to pandemic-related resource needs that have arisen in their local contexts.
She recommends that anyone facing language barriers should reach out to leaders in their communities for immediate assistance. For community members that are looking for updates and resources available in Spanish, Altamirano-Crosby has been sharing information on her personal Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/people/Julieta-Altamirano-Crosby/100002357052892.