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Why Language Access matters


According to the 2019 American Community Survey by the US Census Bureau, 41.8 million people aged five or older speak Spanish at home, more than twice as many as in 1990.


In 2021, California had the highest Hispanic population in the United States, with over 16 million Hispanic people. Many of these, approximately 10 million people or 62% of the target population, are not fluent enough in English to navigate more than basic daily activities.


About 22.6 percent of schoolchildren did not speak English at home in 2019.


AIn 2019, only 12 US states completed an update of court procedural rules and other policies to assure compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other laws and executive orders concerning language access.bout 22.6 percent of schoolchildren did not speak English at home in 2019.


The COVID-19 pandemic intensified language access issues in health care, as hospitals struggle to treat all sick patients who don’t always have access to interpreters. Sometimes, interpreters aren’t provided with masks or other protective gear.


Language Access: Why Does it Matter?

More than 25 million people in the United States in 2019 were Limited English Proficient (LEP). Most of them were immigrants. Language barriers can pose significant obstacles to integrating into American Society and accessing essential public services and institutions such as schools, health care, police and fire departments, and the legal system. Due to the serious civil rights concerns associated with Limited English Proficient individuals being unable to access public services based solely on their language, federal law requires steps to ensure language access.

Language is the key to a person’s self-identity. It enables people to express emotions, share feelings, tell stories, and convey complex messages and knowledge. Language is the most excellent mediator that allows us to relate to and understand each other (Imberti, 2007).

Language matters. Language is the thread that holds together our shared human experience. We all have a responsibility to help people access the information that impacts their lives and ensure they can engage using the languages they know best.

As English and Spanish speakers, we are at an advantage when accessing critical information and acquiring new knowledge in the United States. We are far more likely to benefit from content that we can easily understand. Of the top 10 million websites, 54 percent are in English.

Language Access Legal Framework


Title VI, Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VI prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in any program or activity that receives Federal funds or other Federal financial assistance. Programs that receive Federal funds cannot distinguish among individuals based on race, color, or national origin, either directly or indirectly, in the types, quantity, quality, or timeliness of program services, aids, or benefits they provide or how they provide them.

Read More About Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 here.

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 – Title III

Title III ensures that limited-English proficient (LEP) students, including immigrant children and youth, attain English proficiency and meet the same challenging academic content and achievement standards that other students are expected to meet.

Read More About the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 here.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law that makes available free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation and ensures special education and related services to those children.

The IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to more than 7.5 million (as of the school year 2020-21) eligible infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities.

 Read More About the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) here.

Language Access Plans

Effective communication is critical to ensuring understanding, empowering patients, and providing high-quality care. A language access plan can help ensure that an organization offers high-quality and appropriate language services. A language access plan can also help ensure that an organization’s staff members know what to do when an individual with limited English proficiency needs assistance.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) developed a guide identifying how providers can assess their programs and develop language access plans to ensure that persons with limited English proficiency have meaningful access to their programs. 

Access the CMS Guide to Developing a Language Access Plan here.

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