About Our Language Access Plan

What is Language Access?

On October 6, 2011, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 26, directing state agencies to provide language assistance services (translation and interpretation) to people of Limited English Proficiency (LEP). LEP individuals are identified in a Language Access Plan developed by each agency.

Interpretation versus translation:

Interpretation is spoken and translation is written. Affected agencies should provide an interpreter for any language. This service is primarily provided by phone. They should also translate select vital documents into specific languages. The languages are those that agencies identify in their plans as the most widely used by LEP individuals who access their services.

What is considered a vital document?

The U.S. Department of Justice Language Access Assistance Guide states, “vital written documents include, but are not limited to:

  • consent and complaint forms
  • intake and application forms with the potential for important consequences
  • written notices of rights
  • notices of denials, losses, or decreases in benefits or services
  • notices of disciplinary action
  • signs
  • notices advising LEP individuals of free language assistance services

What are the top languages into which agencies will translate vital documents?

At the moment, Spanish, traditional Chinese, Russian, Haitian-Creole, Korean and Bengali are the top six languages.

This is based on US Census data and may change over time. Some agencies may also choose to add additional languages based on their experience and other federal requirements.

Who's making sure this happens?

Each agency has a Language Access Coordinator to oversee the agency's Language Access Plan. The Deputy Secretary of Civil Rights in the Governor's Office will make sure each agency complies with the order.

Agencies also have uniform documents to help people identify the services that are available.  Posters, notices, and complaint forms are all the same, so people can easily identify and recognize them.

What if someone does not receive adequate language assistance?

Those who feel that we have not provided adequate interpretation services, or have denied them access to an available translated document, may submit a Language Access Complaint to give us their feedback.

Additional information

If you would like to obtain more information about language access at New York State agencies, visit the New York State Division of Human Rights Language Access Page.