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Austin Offers 'Emergency Cards' - for When the Language Barrier Could Mean Life or Death

Bobby Blanchard for KUT News

The City of Austin’s Commission on Immigrant Affairs unveiled emergency cards Friday designed to help first responders assist people who don’t speak English.

The business card-sized rectangles allow those people to hand over basic personal and medical information to emergency responders. This includes information such as name, allergies and other vital information needed in emergency situations.

Commissioner James Kuhr, who helped develop the idea, said 33 percent of the households in Travis County primarily speak languages other than English.

“I think we all know that we’re kind of moving towards an international city," Kuhr said. "We’ve got of course the F1 track that’s bringing a lot of visitors, and Austin has become a place where people to come, foreigners to come, and establish their lives.”

The cards are available in Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese, which are the three most common languages in Travis County after English. Vice Chair on the Commission of Immigrant Affairs Ángela-Jo Touza-Medina said the city can make cards with other languages if there is a demand for them.

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