Are you a provider or consumer of public services funded by the Federal government? If so, you should know about the agency’s requirements to provide translations of vital documents related to their programs. The requirement to translate vital documents of Federally-funded programs is not as straightforward as it seems. Our professional team at The Perfect Translation can partner with you to ensure you provide accessible information as required by law.
Legal Background of the Requirement to Translate Vital Documents of Federally-funded Programs.
The foundation of this requirement rests upon Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. According to the Act, “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
On August 11, 2000, an Executive Order was signed into law to manage how federally funded programs will adhere to the requirements of the Act. Executive Order (EO) 13166, “Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency,” requires Federal agencies to examine the services they provide, identify any need for services to those with limited English proficiency (LEP), and develop and implement a system to provide those services so LEP persons can have meaningful access to them. EO 13166 also requires Federal agencies to work to ensure that recipients of Federal financial assistance provide meaningful access to their LEP applicants and beneficiaries.
Which documents are considered “vital documents.”
There is no master list identifying which documents are considered “vital.” Instead, it is up to the agency to review its programs and associated documentation to determine which are vitally important. The agency should consider it from two perspectives: 1) Documentation that informs potential participants of a program of its existence and benefits, and 2) Documentation related to applications and processing that make the program accessible to participants.
An April 2011 recommendation from the Professional Issues Committee provided these possible criteria: “It contains information critical for obtaining federal services and/or benefits; OR it is required by law.” Examples they included in their recommendation are:
- consent and complaint forms,
- notices of rights and disciplinary action,
- notices advising LEP persons of the availability of free language assistance,
- prison rulebooks,
- written tests that do not assess English language competency but rather competency for a particular license, job, or skill for which English competency is not required,
- letters or notices that require a response from the beneficiary or client and
- a complaint form required in order to file a claim with an agency.
Which Languages Must Be Included
Of course, it is unreasonable to expect an agency to translate a document into every language, so how do they determine which target languages to include in the translation process? The law intends to ensure information about federally-funded programs is accessible to individuals with “limited English proficiency” or “LEP” within the community served by the agency.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) defines LEP individuals as those with a “limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English.” This may include those born in other countries, children of immigrants born in the U.S., and other non-English or limited English proficient persons born in the U.S., including some Native Americans.
Considering this, the law requires agencies to establish clear policies and procedures outlining how they assess language proficiency within their service area via regular self-assessments. They should also determine when the Limited English Proficiency (LEP) population that warrants translation services reaches a significant size. For instance, having just one or two LEP families speaking a specific foreign language may not justify translating all documents. However, if 15% of the population is proficient in another language, the agency may find it necessary to provide translation services. There are many sources for obtaining this information, from community surveys to federal census data.
The Perfect Translation is Your Partner for Accurate Legal Translations
The Perfect Translation has professional translators who are proficient in the source and target languages and also have experience handling the type of work you need to have translated. Our legal experts will translate your vital documents and ensure they will be clearly understood by non-English speakers and accurately reflect your agency’s expectations. Contact us today for more information.