En Español Know Your Rights
Source: Associated Press
Subject: Health Justice & Access
Type: Media Coverage

NYC Services to Be Offered in 6 Foreign Languages

NEW YORK – Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered city agencies Tuesday to
offer services in the six most common foreign languages spoken in New York City: Spanish,
Chinese, Russian, Korean, Italian and French Creole.

While many
services have been available for years in foreign languages, the order marks
the first uniform, citywide policy requiring agencies to provide assistance and
translation in the languages most commonly spoken by New Yorkers with limited
English proficiency.

Bloomberg
said the 1.8 million New Yorkers who struggle with speaking English should be
able to interact more easily with government.

"No
other place on earth can claim such incredible diversity — it is New York City’s greatest
historic strength — but it can also create significant challenges," the
mayor said.

Each city
agency must now designate its own language coordinator who will develop a plan
for ensuring that all the agency’s services will be available in the six
languages.

That could
mean forms, documents, informational brochures or inspection reports.

New Yorkers
who speak languages other than those six will continue to be served as they now
are, on a case-by-case basis.

In most
situations, that would mean getting a translator.

Immigrant
advocates applauded the new order, saying it was something they had been asking
the city to do for many years.

"Never
again will we have to ask our children and grandchildren to translate
complicated government forms for us," said Yorelis Vidal, of Make the
Road New York
, an advocacy group.

Some said
the city had a lot of work to do. Councilman John Liu said the Bloomberg
administration had done a "lackluster" job adhering to a 2003 law he
worked to get passed that mandates on-demand language services in the city’s
social services agencies.

"The
administration is finally getting serious … and ensuring that New York City becomes the
true capital of the world," Liu said in a statement.

For his
part, Bloomberg, who speaks Spanish at a conversational level, takes credit for
expanding the city’s language translation services during his six years in
office.

The 311 city-run hot line where
residents can access all aspects of government offers information in 170
different languages, and the school system’s translation unit has been expanded
to eight languages.