Responding to a Growing Diverse Elder Population, the NYC Coalition on Aging and Vision Provides an Interpreter Program

The number of foreign-born elders in New York City is on the rise. It is estimated that close to 46% of elders 65 years of age and older in NYC are foreign. Access to care and social services continues to be a major concern of foreign elders, especially those who are limited English proficient (LEP), with language remaining one of the top barriers to care.

The New York City Coalition on Aging and Vision (Vision Coalition) , a multi-agency collaboration seeking to increase awareness of age-related vision loss and resources in NYC, has a seen a sharp increase in the number of LEP elders they serve. Acknowledging that lack of language access results in lower quality of care and patient satisfaction, and in an attempt to make vision rehabilitation services more accessible to elders with limited or no English proficiency, the Vision Coalition established the Interpreter Program. A curriculum was designed to train interpreters working with visually impaired LEP elders, who are now utilized on a routine basis to provide interpreter services at Coalition members’ low vision clinics and vision rehabilitation sessions, as well as during community outreach.

Interview with Iolanta O’Neill, Interpreter

Below is an excerpt from an interview with Iolanta O’Neill, one of the Vision Coalition’s interpreters about her work for the Coalition.

How long have you been interpreting with the Vision Coalition?

I have been an interpreter with the Vision Coalition since the beginning 2007.

What does a typical week look like for you as an interpreter?

A typical week may involve calling a client to talk about the program and schedule a visit, interpreting for a client and a low-vision specialist. Each day is very different.

What brings you the most satisfaction working as an interpreter with the Coalition?

Helping elders with low vision. Helping a person with low vision to live a better, safer, more independent life.

Are there any experiences as an interpreter with the program that have really stayed with you?

Seeing how our help makes an older person happier when she/he realizes that she/ he can do things like reading, cooking and other daily things on her/his own.

What do you think is the biggest benefit about the Interpreter Program?

Helping older people with low vision to live better, safer, more independent lives.

What benefit do interpreters offer to professionals?

Since an interpreter knows the language and the culture of an older person, it helps a low vision professional to establish a connection and get a better understanding of the client in order to help him/her better.

Do you have any advice for elders who are afraid to reach out to the Vision Coalition due to a language barrier?

One should not to be afraid to reach out for help. There are professionals and dedicated people who could help and improve safety and quality of life for somebody with low vision.

<pIn an effort to ensure all New Yorkers have access to vision rehabilitation; the Vision Coalition continues to train professional interpreters to provide interpretation at vision rehabilitation agencies. To find out more, contact us at 212.602.4465