In our previous post, we discussed the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act and the requirements under Title VI of the act to make reasonable efforts to provide meaningful access for limited English proficient (LEP) persons if your organization receives federal funding. After assessing your organization in light of the reasonable effort standard and considering funding sources that may be available for interpreting and translation services, it’s time to consider where the rubber meets the road. What can you do in your daily operations to ensure meaningful access?
Let’s look at some best practices:
Be Ready to Refer
One practice the government makes allowances for is referring to other services where LEP’s will receive better language support. The HHS guidelines give the example of two doctors, both of whom have Spanish and Vietnamese LEP’s in their local area. The doctor with a Spanish-speaking assistant would refer patients to the doctor with an assistant who speaks Vietnamese, and vice versa. In this way, they ensure full access for those who need language support.
Assess Language Skills Carefully
“Bilingual” does not necessarily mean “qualified interpreter.” You may be able to enlist a staff member, as in the above example of two doctors. But interpretation is a highly developed skill (as is written translation), and interpretation in specialized areas such as courts and medicine is even more demanding. Evaluate staff members carefully before assigning them to these tasks. If you are at all in doubt, use a service with certified and/or qualified interpreters and translators.
Avoid Relying on Family Members
As we mentioned in previous posts, avoid using family members as interpreters, especially if you are providing law enforcement, legal, or medical services. Bias or reluctance to include a family member in an embarrassing conversation may prevent full and clear communication.
Use Local Interpreters When Possible
For many reasons (including visual cues, local knowledge, familiarity with your operation) local interpreters who work with you onsite will provide the best service. Covid-19 makes onsite work difficult or impossible at this time, but it’s best to use local firms even when you are using video remote interpreting (VRI) or telephone interpreting, so that you can work together even more effectively when onsite interpretation is safe. Your local language company will be thankful that you are using them remotely since the pandemic has affected the workload of the interpreters. This will strengthen your relationship when the pandemic is over.
Use Signage and Other Methods to Notify LEP’s That Language Services Are Available
The best way to make LEP clients aware you have language services available is with signage at the entry points of your facility and any intake areas, such as reception counters. Various federal and state agencies often have translated signage available for download. You should also make sure any outreach documents (such as brochures and advertisements) mention them as well. If community organizations might refer LEP’s to you, keep them informed about your language assistance processes.
Monitor and Continually Improve
Regularly review how interactions with those who need language services are going, and don’t ever be afraid to make a change. Clear communication with those you serve will make things better for everyone, and keep you compliant with Title VI.