Bilingual Access Line Uses Technology to Support Limited English Communities during Pandemic

In the past two years, health and safety precautions around COVID-19 have affected business practices around the world. It forced many companies to adopt digital technology and tools to reduce disruption of their day-to-day operations. For language interpreters, limits on travel and gatherings changed the way their jobs were done too.

Last July our Bilingual Access Line (BAL) launched an interpretation and scheduling app and moved the majority of its services online. Using the platform kept our interpreters safe, allowing them to work from home while still providing language services to the community. BAL provided interpreter services via audio (telephone), VRI (video remote interpreting) and, on a case-by-case basis, in person. Interestingly, the scheduled and on-demand audio (telephone) method was the most popular. The app made it easy for service providers to connect an interpreter with the individual who spoke limited English, removing language barriers that prevented them from offering care and support to their clients.

The new platform increased BAL’s languages to more than 250 languages, including American Sign Language. Since its launch, 39 new vendors (six from the neighbor islands) signed on to use this valuable service. Additionally, BAL hired nine new interpreters who added to the team’s ability to provide services in our community. In all, BAL completed 3,981 appointments for language assistance last year and helped individuals to communicate during medical appointments, court testimonies, legal interviews, emergency services situations, classroom meetings, public benefit interviews, educational assessments, housing reviews and many other situations in which language barriers impacted people’s lives.

BAL and its platform are very beneficial to English language learners and limited English proficient community members as well as the businesses that serve them. BAL addresses the challenges of language and cultural insensitivity and inequality while facilitating and empowering individual communication. For more information, check out the KITV4 Aging Well segment with Diane Ako that aired last year, visit BAL’s program page or email

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