Guidelines for Providing Meaningful Communication to Persons with Limited English Proficiency
In accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Executive Order 13166, Washington State University (WSU) considers discrimination on the basis of an individual’s Limited English Proficiency (LEP) to be a form of national origin discrimination covered under the WSU Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Discriminatory Harassment, Sexual Harassment, and Sex and Gender Based Violence, Executive Policy #15.
WSU will take reasonable steps to ensure that LEP individuals have meaningful access and an equal opportunity to participate in our services, activities, programs and other benefits. The goal is to ensure meaningful communication with LEP members of the university community, including: students, faculty, staff, and others having an association with WSU. Departments can provide for communication of information contained in vital documents, including but not limited to, policy notices, waivers of rights, consent to treatment forms, financial and insurance benefit forms, etc. All interpreters, translators and other aids needed to comply with these guidelines shall be provided without cost to the person being served, and individuals should be informed that such assistance is available free of charge.
Language assistance can be provided through use of competent bilingual staff, staff interpreters, contracts or formal arrangements with local organizations providing interpretation or translation services, or technology and telephonic interpretation services. Departments can provide all staff that may have direct contact with LEP individuals with notice of these guidelines and training on effective communication techniques, including the effective use of an interpreter.
Guidance for departments:
- IDENTIFYING LEP PERSONS AND THEIR LANGUAGE
WSU staff should attempt to promptly identify the language and communication needs of the LEP person. If necessary, staff could use a language identification card (or “I speak cards,” available online at www.lep.gov) or posters to determine the language. In addition, when records are kept of past interactions with LEP individuals or family members, the language used to communicate with the LEP person should be included as part of the record.
- OBTAINING A QUALIFIED INTEPRETER
There are a variety of ways in which a department can provide appropriate interpreter services, including the following:
(a) Identifying the name, language, phone number, and hours of availability of bilingual staff who are qualified and willing to interpret. Departments may contact WSU International Programs for assistance in identifying appropriate staff within the department or within the wider WSU community.
(b) Obtaining an outside interpreter if a bilingual staff or staff interpreter is not available or does not speak the needed language. There are multiple phone based interpreter services available and each department should determine if it is necessary to have an account in place to provide interpreter services. CCR uses Language Link to provide phone based interpreter services. Departments may contact CCR for assistance in determining what services may be appropriate.
Some LEP persons may prefer or request to use a family member or friend as an interpreter. However, family members or friends of the LEP person should not be used as interpreters unless specifically requested by that individual and only after the LEP person has understood that an offer of an interpreter at no charge to the person has been made by WSU staff. Such an offer and the response should be documented in the person’s file. If the LEP person chooses to use a family member or friend as an interpreter, issues of competency of interpretation, confidentiality, privacy, and conflict of interest should be considered. If the family member or friend is not competent or appropriate for any of these reasons, competent interpreter services should be provided to the LEP person.
Children and students should not be used to interpret, in order to ensure confidentiality of information and accurate communication.
- PROVIDING WRITTEN TRANSLATIONS
(a) When translation of vital documents is needed, each unit at WSU may work with International Programs, the Foreign Languages Department, or an external translation agency to determine how to secure appropriate translation services for frequently encountered languages. Original documents being submitted for translation should be in final, approved form with updated and accurate information.
(b) Departments should provide translation of other written materials, if needed, as well as written notice of the availability of translation, free of charge, for LEP individuals.
(c) Departments are encouraged to set benchmarks for translation of vital documents into additional languages over time.
- PROVIDING NOTICE TO LEP PERSONS
WSU can inform LEP persons of the availability of language assistance, free of charge, by providing written notice in languages LEP persons will understand. Notices and signs are recommended to be posted and provided in intake areas and other points of entry of offices that have identified an ongoing need for services to LEP individuals. Notification can also be provided through one or more of the following: outreach documents, telephone voice mail menus, local newspapers, radio and television stations, and/or community-based organizations.
- MONITORING LANGUAGE NEEDS AND IMPLEMENTATION
Departments are recommended to assess changes in demographics in the populations that are served, to determine whether additional services should be provided.