Language access

Tool: Increasing language access in the courts

The increasing language access in the courts tool:

  • Examines advocates’ observations about the court experiences of survivors with limited English proficiency
  • Offers guidance and resources to build systems change efforts for language accessibility

In 2013, we conducted a nationwide assessment of court-based language accessibility for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Nearly 600 people responded, most of whom worked for community-based sexual and domestic violence programs. We learned that interpretation and translation services for civil matters and filing court documents are available about half the time for Spanish speakers, and about one quarter of the time for people who speak languages (other than Spanish) that are common in the community. The first section of the toolkit, Assessment of English Language access for Survivors, summarizes assessment results, including the known consequences of limited language access services for survivors.

In the interest of supporting advocates’ role in building court access for survivors, the second part of the toolkit, How to Improve Language Access for Survivors, offers concrete information and tools for advocates seeking to increase language accessibility:

  • “Before court” resources include a pre-court checklist and clear and simple descriptions of the federal laws and guidelines that frame courts’ obligations to provide quality language access services.
  • “At court” resources include talking points and strategies for in-court individual advocacy
  • “After court” resources include a training curriculum for use with court personnel and a step-by-step guide for planning systems change advocacy

This project was supported by Grant No. 2012-TA-AX-K023 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, US Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

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