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Know Your Rights
Source: New York City Official Website
Subject: Language Access
Type: Media Coverage


Language Access Executive Order Requires City Agencies to Improve
Customer Service by Providing Translation and Interpretation Services for All
New Yorkers

Agencies to Provide Services in Top Six Languages Spoken in New York including
Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Korean, Italian, and French Creole

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today signed the City’s first Language Access
Executive Order, establishing a uniform policy and standards for translation
and interpretation services for City agencies that have direct interaction with
New Yorkers. Executive Order 120 requires every such City agency to provide
language assistance in the top six languages spoken by New Yorkers. To ensure
that limited-English-proficient residents have meaningful access to City
programs, services and activities, the City’s new Customer Service Group,
housed within the Mayor’s Office of Operations, will work closely with the
Mayors Office of Immigrant Affairs to facilitate the application and oversee
compliance with the executive order by each agency.  The Mayor was joined
at the signing today by City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Deputy Mayor
for Legal Affairs Carol Robles-Roman, Operations Director Jeff Kay, Immigrant
Affairs Commissioner Guillermo Linares, Counselor to the Mayor Anthony Crowell,
Deputy Counselor William Heinzen, City Legislative Affairs Director Eddie
Bautista, City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, New York Immigration Coalition
Executive Director Chung-Wha Hong and Yorelis Vidal, a Make the Road
New York
Member and Senior Organizer.

"For the
1.8 million New Yorkers with limited English proficiency, interacting with
government all too often can be a challenge," said Mayor Bloomberg.
"All New Yorkers should have the same access to the same services and the
same opportunities. This Executive Order will make our city more accessible,
while helping us become the most inclusive municipal government in the nation."

"Thanks to this
Executive Order, New Yorkers will now more easily be able to communicate and
receive services at all City agencies, not just the few that currently have
language access programs," said Council Speaker Quinn.  "I want
to thank all who worked on this issue, including Deputy Mayor Carol
Robles-Roman and Council Member Rosie Mendez, for collaborating on this
Executive Order that will directly impact thousands of New Yorkers."

Nearly one-half of all
New Yorkers speak a language other than English at home, and 25 percent of City
residents do not speak English as their primary language. New York City residents who have difficulty
speaking, reading, writing or understanding English will now have better access
to City government information and services in their language.

Executive Order 120
requires that City agencies provide interpretation services, including the use
of telephonic interpretation, oral or written translation services, and
translation of essential public documents into the most commonly spoken languages
including Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Korean, Italian and French Creole. Each
agency will designate a Language Access Coordinator who will work to develop a
Language Access policy and implementation plan. 

"Today’s Executive
Order will make great strides in ensuring meaningful access to City services
for all New Yorkers, including those with limited English proficiency,"
said Deputy Mayor Robles Roman. "Our City agencies, many of which are
already making great progress in the area of language access, will now even
better meet the needs of the countless New Yorkers seeking city services."

"We are excited
about taking on language access as part of our broader customer service
initiative," said Operations Director Kay.  "Without holding
agencies accountable for the way they serve people with limited English
proficiency, we can’t accomplish our goal of improving customer service for all
New Yorkers."

Executive Order strengthens our City’s commitment to serving immigrant families
and communities, and recognizes that language should not be a barrier between
any New Yorker and the vital services that we all need to lead a safe and
healthy life," said Commissioner Linares.

The Language Access
Executive Order expands the Bloomberg administration’s commitment to accessible
services for limited English proficient New Yorkers. In 2003, the 311 Customer Service Center
changed the way New Yorkers interacted with City government providing
information for callers in 170 different languages. The expanded Translation
Unit in the Department of Education currently provides parents with information
in eight languages.  Under Local Law 73 signed by Mayor Bloomberg in 2003,
the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Department of Homeless
Services, the Administration for Children’s Services and the Human Resources
Administration already provide enhanced language access for
limited-English-proficient individuals seeking vital services.

"Part of making
the American dream open to everyone, is about making it possible for immigrants
to access vital city services," said Council Member Mendez. 
"Without adequate language access at City agencies, we are turning our
backs on the most vulnerable members of our society.  We cannot let that
happen, not on our watch.  I want to thank the Mayor for this bold and
necessary action. Today New York
City takes a giant step toward better serving our limited-English-residents and
immigrant communities."

"We applaud Mayor
Bloomberg’s tremendous leadership and commitment to improving government
services for millions of City residents, including our newest New
Yorkers," said Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director of the New York
Immigration Coalition.  "By ensuring good communication with the
public, the executive order will improve the efficiency of city agencies and
enhance the safety of all New Yorkers."

"Millions of
immigrant New Yorkers will now be able to go interact with City government and
get the help of an interpreter when they need it," said Andrew Friedman, Co-Executive
Director of
Make the Road New York. "Never again, will we will never have to ask our children and
grandchildren to translate complicated government forms for us."