Language Access Rights of Interpreters and Translators Working in the USA

- October 22, 2021
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Did you know that fundamental language access rights (Title VI of the civil rights act) don’t only apply to U.S civilians with Limited English Proficiency (LEP individuals)? As a foreign language interpreter or translator working and living in the United States, you also have the right to language access.

If English is not your native language and you have difficulty communicating effectively in the English language, you have the right to obtain the assistance of an English interpreter or translator so that you can have meaningful conversations that are mutually understandable.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that any person seeking services from government agencies or organizations funded by the U.S. government must be provided with assistance in their native language.


What are Language Access Rights?

Language access rights pertain to the language services that you’re entitled to as a non-English speaker or an individual with limited English proficiency.

These rights state that you have the right to a free interpreter and free translator to assist you with important processes and documentation.

Government agencies and organizations funded by the U.S. government cannot force anybody to provide their own interpreters (which include family members) or ask them to pay for the services of an interpreter or translator in case they provide the language access services.


When Can You Insist on Language Access Services?

You are entitled to language access services if you are a limited English proficient (LEP) applicant, and you must deal with any one of the following organizations, federal agencies, or institutions that receive federal financial assistance:

  • Federal courts and any other official government organization
  • State and local courts that are funded by the U.S. government
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • Social Security Administration and other federal agencies
  • Local and state government agencies funded by the U.S. government. These include social services, welfare, and unemployment offices.
  • Legal services offices funded by the Legal Services Corporation or other legal agencies funded by the U.S. government
  • U.S. government-funded police departments
  • Hospitals and other health facilities funded by the U.S. government
  • Schools and other educational institutions and community-based organizations that are funded by the U.S. government


Meaningful Access for LEP Individuals

Section 1557 of the Civil Rights Act (covering language access policies) prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, color, nationality, sex, age, or disability when it comes to health and human services or activities. This section of the act specifically applies to health care within the U.S. and focuses on the rights of non-citizens as well as U.S. citizens. All health institutions that receive federal funding must have a language access plan in place that is based on civil rights protections. Under the section, the following applies:

Health care providers funded by the government must provide meaningful access to individuals with limited English proficiency that are eligible for the facility’s programs and activities. Language access may be provided in the form of verbal interpreting or written translation services.


How Does Language Access Help Immigrants?

Many immigrants in the United States are plagued by language issues and language barriers. And although local agencies try their best to integrate immigrants into the community with language assistance and equal access to these services, it is an ongoing struggle due to the communication gap.

Many newcomers to the United States strive to learn English because they know that it will open new doors of opportunity for them. And this rings true across almost every sector, including work, school, and community acceptance. Sadly, not all limited English proficient immigrants are aware of their civil rights issued to them by the United States Government under Title VI.

Individuals with limited English skills might shy away from the local community because they have a hard time communicating with others. This can impact their physical and emotional health too.

Their limited English skills prevent them from realizing their dream of building a better life in the United States, which is the main reason why most of them decided to move to the U.S. in the first place.

Thanks to language access rights, the situation is slowly being addressed. Local communities are creating programs to help narrow the language gap, and existing laws on language access, specifically in healthcare, are assisting immigrants to feel like they belong in their new homes.


State and Local Language Access Laws

The National Health Law (NHeLP Report) report includes information and detailed descriptions for each state’s legislative act with focusing on healthcare, interpreters’ competencies, and cultural competency training for professional professionals. For an explanation of state language access laws affecting health care, see Mara Youdelman’s (2019) Summary of State Law Requirements Addressing Language Needs in healthcare (2018 update).


Advocating the Rights of Foreign Linguists in the U.S.

Here at Day Translations, we’re not only passionate about language but about the linguists that make it their life’s work to help connect the world through language as well.

Our interpreting and translation roles are open for all nationalities, and by offering immigrants an employment opportunity, we’re hoping to help narrow down the language gap even further.

If you’re a foreign translator or interpreter living in the United States and in need of language access assistance, get in touch with our team right now!