Who is a limited English proficient individual? Individuals who do not speak English as their primary language and who have a limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English can be limited English proficient. Households where no one over age 14 speaks English well are linguistically isolated.
The LEP Population in the United States More than 10 million people in the United States reported to the 2000 Census that they do not Speak English at all or do not speak English well. The number of persons who do not speak English well or not at all grew by 65% from 1990 to 2000. The most common languages other than English are Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean. Over 11% of LEP persons aged 16 years and over reported taking transit to work, compared with about 4% of English speakers.
What constitutes low-literacy? Literacy is “an individual’s ability to read, write, and speak English and compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job and in society, to achieve one’s goals and develop one’s knowledge and potential.” (The National Literacy Act). U.S. Department of Education created scales for prose literacy, document literacy, and quantitative literacy and defined five levels of literacy, with level 1 reflecting the lowest skills. The National Adult Literacy Survey found that 21% of adults had level 1 literacy skills and 27% of adults had level 2 literacy skills.
The Low-Literacy Population in the United States This map displays the percentage of the population in each state with level 1 literacy
Executive Order 13166 Each Federal agency shall examine the services it provides and develop and implement a system by which LEP persons can meaningfully access those services.
DOT LEP Guidance What steps a recipient takes to provide “meaningful access” depends on: 1. The number and proportion of LEP persons in a recipient’s area. 2. The frequency of contact between LEP person and the recipient’s services. 3. The importance of the service provided to the recipient. 4. The resources available to the recipient and costs.
Ways to reduce the costs of providing language assistance Training bilingual staff to serve as interpreters or translators. Using telephone interpretation services Using qualified community volunteers to provide interpretive services. Using qualified translators and interpreters to make sure documents don’t need to be corrected later.
Providing Language Assistance also has benefits Based upon our site visits, costs for existing language access activities were generally not seen as burdensome. One of the reasons for this is that Many agencies believe that providing services to LEP populations makes sound business sense. Such agencies recognize that LEP populations represent a significant portion of both their current and potential ridership. Thus, making services accessible to LEP persons could increase ridership.” --U.S. Government Accountability Office Report, “Better Dissemination and Oversight of DOT’s Guidance Could Lead to Improved Access for Limited-English Proficient Populations.”
Guidance on Oral Language Services Recipients should consider the competency of the interpreters. When interpretation is needed, it should be provided in a timely manner to be effective. Recipients should determine how to make best use of bilingual staff, Contracting with interpreters is effective when there is no regular need for a particular language skill. Also consider using telephone interpreter services.
Guidance on Written Language Services Translate vital written materials The number of languages into which a document should be translated depends on the four factor analysis.
The Elements of an Effective Implementation Plan on Language Assistance 1. Conducting a needs assessment. 2. Providing language assistance measures 3. Training staff 4. Providing notice to LEP persons 5. Monitoring and updating the plan
Current Practices (From the New Jersey Department of Transportation Report and the GAO Report)
What language assistance is currently being provided? The most popular strategy is publishing timetables and route maps in languages other than English Next most popular strategy is multilingual phone lines and use of multi-lingual staff in information booths. Agencies also use pictograms and mult- language announcements. --New Jersey Department of Transportation Report
Language services being provided (from the GAO Report)
Input from the LEP Community—New Jersey Transit Focus Groups Station announcements and ticket machine instructions are difficult to understand. People experienced difficulty trying to get oral information from bus drivers or train station crews. Driver sensitivity and training is a problem. Lack of transit service to places where LEP persons wanted to go was a problem.
Input from the LEP community— the GAO Report More bi-lingual bus drivers are needed. Translated web sites are not particularly useful. Outreach and public involvement to LEP persons was not sufficient. People were unaware of the existence of language access measures.
Providing Access to Services for People with Low-Literacy Meaningful access should extend to people who cannot read and understand what is read. There is an association between LEP, low-income, and low-literacy.
Engaging Low-Literacy and LEP Populations in transportation decision making Hold public meetings in accessible locations and at accessible times. Provide food at public meetings. Provide notice through radio announcements. Look for clues that people cannot read English or another language Give people the opportunity to provide verbal comments Use maps and diagrams
Engaging Low-Literacy and LEP Populations in transportation decision making Attend local community meetings and events. Train local residents to do community outreach. Use staff that reflects others in the community. Work with community leaders and insiders.
Resources The DOT LEP Guidance can be found at the FTA Title VI Website, www.fta.dot.gov (click on the link to “civil rights/accessibility).www.fta.dot.gov New Jersey Department of Transportation Report at www.transportation.njit.edu/nctip/final_report/LEP.htm www.transportation.njit.edu/nctip/final_report/LEP.htm Government Accountability Report at www.gao.govwww.gao.gov Federal Highway Administration Report at www.fhwa.dot.gov/hep/lowlim3.htm www.fhwa.dot.gov/hep/lowlim3.htm Or contact the FTA Office of Civil Rights (202) 366-4018