A Framework for Language Access: Key Features of U.S. State and Local Language Access Laws and Policies
For newcomers, established immigrants, and citizens alike, language barriers can pose significant obstacles to integration into U.S. society as well as access to essential public services and institutions such as schools, health care, police and fire departments, and the legal system. Recognizing that this poses a serious civil-rights issue, the federal government and many states and localities have introduced language access laws and policies to ensure Limited English Proficient (LEP) individuals have effective access to critical resources.
This report analyzes key elements of language access laws and policies across 40 states and localities. Although these laws and policies often take cues from federal guidance on language access, they also contain many unique and innovative elements necessary to ensure language access in the day-to-day functions of state and local governments. And while these mandates are rooted in their local contexts, they share common features that can provide a foundational framework for other jurisdictions interested in improving their service capacity and governance of language access.
Among the major elements of these laws and policies, this study identifies two broad categories: agency responsibilities and policy administration. Within these categories, the report provides a wide array of examples of state and local approaches to issues such as document translation, interpretation, staff training, agency oversight and accountability, advisory councils and technical assistance, and community involvement.
2 State and Local Language Access Laws and Policies Examined
3 Key Features of Language Access Mandates
4 Agency Responsibilities
A. Identifying Affected Agencies
B. Document Translation
C. Interpretation Services
D. Ensuring Accuracy and Quality of Services Provided
E. Training Staff on Language Access Policies and Procedures
F. Public Notice of Services and Rights Related to Language Access
G. Designation and Recruitment of Agency Personnel to Supervise Language Access
H. Creation of Language Access Plans
5 Policy Administration
A. Agency Oversight
B. Creation of Advisory Councils and Technical Assistance Bodies
C. Accountability Mechanisms
D. Data Systems and Population Tracking
E. Involvement of Community Members and Groups
F. Agency or Jurisdiction Financial Resources