EQUITY: LANGUAGE ACCESS
Updated On: Oct 12, 2015

LANGUAGE ACCESS

THE CIVIL RIGHT TO AN INTERPRETER

[cross posted from lep.gov]

Individuals who do not speak English as their primary language and who have a limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English can be Limited English Proficient (LEP). These individuals may be entitled language assistance with respect to a particular type or service, benefit, or encounter.

Federal laws particularly applicable to language access include Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination based on national origin, and Executive Order 13166 issued in 2000. Many federal programs, states, and localities also have provisions requiring language services for LEP individuals.

On August 11, 2000, then President Clinton signed Executive Order 13166, "Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency."  The Executive Order requires Federal agencies to examine the services they provide, identify any need for language services to those with limited English proficiency, and develop and implement a system to provide those services so LEP persons can have meaningful access to them.  It is expected that agency plans will provide for such meaningful access consistent with, and without unduly burdening, the fundamental mission of the agency. 

To assist Federal agencies in carrying out these responsibilities, the U.S. Department of Justice has issued a Policy Guidance Document entitled, "Enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - National Origin Discrimination Against Persons With Limited English Proficiency" (LEP Guidance).  This LEP Guidance sets forth the compliance standards that recipients of Federal financial assistance must follow to ensure that their programs and activities normally provided in English are accessible to LEP persons and thus do not discriminate on the basis of national origin in violation of Title VI's prohibition against national origin discrimination.

Federal financial assistance includes grants, training, use of equipment, donations of surplus property, and other assistance. Subrecipients are also covered, when federal funds are passed from one recipient to a subrecipient. Recipients of federal funds range from state and local agencies, to nonprofits and other organizations. A list of the types of recipients and the agencies funding them can be found at Executive Order 12250 Coordination of Grant-Related Civil Rights Statutes. Title VI covers a recipient's entire program or activity. This means all parts of a recipient's operations are covered. This is true even if only one part of the recipient receives the federal assistance.


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