International Translation Day is celebrated every year on September 30th, so I’d like to take a moment to talk about Language Access and its role, not only in equitable access to goods and services, but in increasing civic engagement.
Language Access refers to providing people who are Limited English Proficient (LEP) with reasonable access to the goods and services available for English-speaking individuals. This can look like having bilingual staff in positions that regularly interact with the public, providing high quality interpretation services at no extra cost and/or ensuring your print and online materials are available in other languages, based on the needs of your community.
Having community members who are Limited English Proficient jump through various hoops in order to access information and/or share their concerns and opinions about decisions that will be made by city council leads to disengaged community members. Those hoops can be having to search for information on a website that relies on machine translation, therefore understanding less than half of the information, or being assigned an “interpreter” that is simply a bilingual person, but who is not trained and does not have the necessary skills to render a correct interpretation.
One way we can work towards being a more welcoming and inclusive city is to break down the language barriers that can prevent non-English speakers from participating fully in our civic processes.