Instantaneously Linking 3-1-1 Callers to Translators

Homes in Pittsburgh's Shadyside neighborhood.

Homes in Pittsburgh's Shadyside neighborhood. Shutterstock

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With its Language Access Plan, Pittsburgh’s goal is “to assist all residents and to provide access to all resources.”

In many cities, 3-1-1 nonemergency call center personnel are trained to either answer a wide range of questions or connect a caller with somebody else who has an answer, a municipal resource or service. But what if they don’t they don’t speak the same language?

In Pennsylvania’s second most-populous city, there’s a new resource to deal with that challenge. Through Pittsburgh’s new 3-1-1 Language Access Plan, call-center personnel are now able to directly connect residents with a United Language Group translator and answer their questions during calls.

According to a recent announcement from the city: “This plan is a transformational step to ensuring all Pittsburgh residents have access to the wealth of information and opportunities our city has to offer. With the increase in diversity in our city, being able to assist all residents and to provide access to all resources is a top priority.”

The Language Access Plan is being funded through a $50,000 grant from the Heinz Endowments, according to the Tribune-Review, which reports that Pittsburgh’s 3-1-1 center is now able to translate Spanish, Nepali, Arabic, Burmese, Swahili, Somali, Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese, French, Dari, Kinyarwanda, Kurdish and Albanian.

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Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.   

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