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Language Access Collaborative Continues Work to Enhance Communication Accessibility

A giant effort toward helping spread important information about Buncombe County services and resources is taking a huge step forward. Recently, Local Government Language Access Collaborative members from Buncombe County submitted the first draft of their Language Access Plan (LAP) to the Buncombe County Equity and Human Rights Office and to the leadership of the Local Government Language Access Collaborative at the Institute for the Study of the Americas at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Buncombe County’s LAP will be essential in ensuring we are serving all people, including people with disabilities, individuals with a non-English language preference (NELP), immigrants and refugees, and visitors. It will be a critical tool for ensuring that everyone has access to the resources and opportunities they need to thrive.  Delivering timely and accurate communications is part of our mission to promote a healthy, safe, well-educated, and thriving community with a sustainable quality of life.  Additionally, language access is mandated in programs receiving federal funding, which affects all public facing County departments.  To that end, the members of the Collaborative team have been working with nine other Counties and Cities that are members of the Local Government Access Collaborative and our local nonprofit Poder Emma to work through a year-long language access course.

Through that work, the Collaborative members have discovered the following:

  • There is insufficient communication between departments around recognizing and utilizing available resources.
  • There is currently no consistent mechanism in place to capture language need or frequency of interpretation services used in programs or departments.
  • In addition to Spanish and Ukrainian, the Vietnamese language was encountered somewhat frequently across programs.
  • Some interviewees were unaware that recruiting bilingual staff was an option.

As further discoveries are made and data collected, the LAP will continue to evolve to meet the County’s language needs. Additionally, the collaborative will continue to engage with community leaders to help identify additional needs.

Background information

On May 1, 2023, a countywide Language Services Policy was approved to help ensure Buncombe County fulfills its responsibilities around serving persons with a non-English language preference (NELP). Because the County receives funding from the federal government, language access is required for compliance with federal regulations, including, but not limited to, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the 1987 Civil Rights Restoration Act and Executive Order 13166.

In 2023, Buncombe County was selected to participate in the Local Government Access Collaborative at the Institute for the Study of the Americas at UNC-Chapel Hill. The Collaborative builds relationships between local governments and community partners. County staff, along with community partners from Poder Emma, formed a team to work through a year-long language access course developed by the Institute staff at UNC-Chapel Hill with the goal of producing an LAP for the County.

What’s next?

The LAP will be presented to County leadership for additional feedback. Starting next year, the LAP collaborative will keep in touch with other cities and counties working on increasing language access to help fortify plans across North Carolina.

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Updated Nov 22, 2023 03:52 PM
Published Nov 21, 2023 12:16 PM

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