AAFSC Volunteer Voices: Linguistically Accessible Materials in Health Outreach

October 8, 2021

Sylvie Mayer is an eleventh-grade student based in Brooklyn, NY and a communications volunteer with the Arab-American Family Support Center. Interested in writing and spreading awareness about under-resourced populations in New York City, she hopes to use her passion to connect with her local community in a meaningful way.

As families transition back into school and COVID-19 continues to impact our communities, there’s a continued amount of uncertainty facing low-income New Yorkers. Many fail to think about how difficult this transition may be if you speak a language other than English, which is why linguistically accessible materials in health outreach are incredibly important.

Linguistically competent materials and access to various languages in health outreach may seem straightforward – access to the language that you speak. However, it also includes thinking about the technical level of language being used in health outreach materials. Additionally, with information spreading about COVID-19, there can be confusion in general surrounding how to stay safe. While many are working to educate others about the vaccine and how it works, there is still hesitancy about the vaccine.

The information given out by the city about where to get the vaccine and the incentives for it are almost always in English, adding to confusion and lack of ability to get an appointment. Without being able to understand COVID-19 vaccine education such as vaccination websites, there’s little way to understand how to navigate this process.

Many families the Arab-American Family Support Center serves have school-aged children, bringing up the much-anticipated shift back-to-school. The entire back-to-school process has been confusing for many. The question of in-person versus remote? Wondering if vaccines or masks will be mandated? Or even what will happen if cases begin rising above a certain positivity rate? While it’s confusing for the average student and their parents, someone who does not understand all the information being passed out by the Mayor and local government may feel even more confused. All of this creates questions for many. We need linguistically accessible materials, especially in our healthcare system to make sure every parent understands what’s going on and can effectively send their kids to school and feel comfortable.

Finally, just generally living in the city can be difficult due to inaccessibility and connectivity to resources, especially for newly arrived immigrants who may not speak English. A way to get involved is by voting in local elections. They’re incredibly important and allow people to have a say in local politics that directly affect them. The New York General Election is 11/2 and there are lots of seats up for grabs, so make sure to get out and vote as well!


Interested in volunteering with Arab-American Family Support Center? You can view available opportunities on the Get Connected page of our website.