Legislation That Requires Language Access

 How to Ensure Your Organization is Language Access Compliant  

As the United States has become increasingly diverse, the government has taken a number of measures to improve inclusivity for Limited English Proficiency (LEP) individuals. America has the highest immigrant population of any other nation on earth, with a whopping 14% of the population being foreign-born, and language access has never been more important for staying connected.

These laws, often enforced or moderated by the Department of Justice (DOJ), require many organizations to have a language access plan, and to offer language services to LEP people. Language access could be provided by in-house interpreters, but it’s more common (and affordable) to outsource language services.

Is your organization in compliance? If your organization falls under these requirements, it’s important to make sure you’re ready!

Who Is Required to Provide Language Access? 

According to the DOJ and guidance outlined by lep.gov, language access is required for any institution that receives federal funding, even partially or indirectly. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act requires this of any and all programs/departments of a federally funded entity. Specifically, this means that your organization must take “reasonable steps” to provide “meaningful access” to LEP individuals, quickly, efficiently, and at no cost to them.

An organization that doesn’t have frequent need for an interpreter may be tempted to delay employing language services, but are then left scrambling when a sudden need for language access arises! Those are the kinds of gaps that the DOJ and the Civil Rights Act are intended to mitigate.

The Affordable Care Act further defines requirements for healthcare providers, ensuring that any entity receiving funds from the Department of Health & Human Resources (HHR) must also provide language services. Most hospitals, urgent cares, etc., MUST have interpreters immediately available.

Why is this so important? Medical scenarios are often highly distressing, and language barriers can make them even more traumatic. At SpokenHere MANY of our remote interpreters have brought relief in emergency situations; in fact, in a recent interview with one of our interpreters, Weaam, she shared a story of talking and comforting a woman through labor when language barriers with hospital staff had left the mother largely isolated and afraid.

Implementing a Language Access Plan 

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For the sake of both your staff and LEP persons, it’s important to have a plan in place for how language help will be provided. You don’t want to be scrambling or to have employees unsure of how to take action in the moment of need, especially in emergency situations. This will also help you avoid lawsuits and other damages from disgruntled LEP individuals that might happen if you don’t plan.

While your first instinct may be to recruit friends, family, or bi-lingual staff to handle language access cases, it’s not recommended. A lack of training and background information could result in malpractice/legal consequences, miscommunications, or undue risk. Instead, develop a relationship with a remote interpretation and translation provider (like the team at SpokenHere) that can provide you immediate support.

Once you have a language service on “speed dial”, you’ll be able to outline a process for staff to quickly access an interpreter and bring help to a LEP person. SpokenHere’s remote interpreters connect in seconds! And remember to frequently review and update your language access plan as needed.

Make a Game Plan 

If you or your organization need a more established game plan for how to provide language access, don’t wait to make the arrangements! An organization that falls under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and/or additional requirements, is at risk of consequences until preparations are made.

SpokenHere offers fast, clear, and compassionate language services (remote interpreting and translation) in over 200 languages! Connect with us to help your organization meet language access requirements today!