Part 1: Summary of legal and ethical mandates for language access

This information comprises the first of a two-part resource on language access created and published by Esperanza United (formerly Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network). For more information on language access, please visit our Language Access toolkit page.

Why Provide Meaningful Language Access?

There are three main reasons to ensure that your organization is providing meaningful language access:

  1. It’s the right thing to do.

  • As organizations dedicated to ending and preventing gender-based violence, we work toward ensuring safety, healing, and justice for all survivors harmed by violence, including survivors who face additional barriers due to limited English proficiency.

  • If we are proactive, we can ensure that all individuals with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and those who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing have meaningful access to critical services.

  1. Language access improves services and enhances outcomes.

  • Research shows that domestic violence survivors with LEP are more likely to seek services if those services are provided in their language.

  • Language access enhances safety and enables survivors to understand their rights and options and make informed decisions.

  • Survivors feel more supported when linguistically accessible services are provided. It is part of ensuring a trauma-informed approach.

  1. It’s a legal requirement.

    A) Any organization that receives federal financial assistance—either directly or indirectly—is required to comply with Title VI of the Civil Right Act of 1964 (Title VI); and the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (Safe Streets Act)

    B) Organizations are also obligated to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 1990; and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Who is a Limited English Proficient (LEP) Individual?

Persons with LEP are those individuals who do not speak English as their primary language and have a limited ability to read, write, speak or understand English.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2015, more than 25.9 million people age five or older spoke English less than “very well,” representing 9% of the overall U.S. population ages five and older. (Batalova & Zong, 2016)

What are the Requirements under the ADA for Places of Public Accommodation?

Regardless of funding source, the ADA requires organizations that are places of public accommodation to ensure that communication with people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing is as equally effective as communication with people without disabilities.

Next week’s blog will cover the legal requirements for language access, elements to ensure quality and effective language access plans, and considerations when using technology to translate. Stay tuned!