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With Language Access Plan, County & Community Come Together to Support People with Limited English Proficiency

After more than a year of work, community collaborations, statewide virtual and in-person workshops, untold hours of research, and other intentional efforts, Buncombe County is excited and proud to announce it has finalized a Language Access Plan, earning a $25,000 grant in the process. The final step was recently achieved when County staff and representatives from Poder Emma presented to the UNC Language Access Collaborative for final approval. Language Access Coordinator Aaron Vidaurri says collaborating with local groups like Poder Emma and local governments such as Concord, High Point, New Hanover, Raleigh, Wilmington, and others really helped strengthen their work and provide insights and resources that have improved the final product. “Collaborating with community partners across the state and other city and county governments proved invaluable in crafting our language access plan. This exchange of knowledge and experiences fostered a more comprehensive approach that reflects the needs of our diverse community,” explains Aaron. “By working alongside those we serve and learning from best practices in other regions, we were able to develop a plan that feels truly inclusive and effective.”

Partnership is central to the success of the plan, and that’s where Poder Emma comes in. The local nonprofit was instrumental in creating the Language Access Plan. “Our important role was to take action in collaboration with the County’s team to survey all County departments that receive Title 6 funds, so that we were able to make the departments aware of the lack of vital documents in different languages,” explains the Poder Emma team. “Before this initiative, grassroots organizations were already taking action and doing this work with the community, and now with this collaboration, the community will have access to all of the County's information, which was difficult before and will now be more sustainable.”

Now that the plan has been finalized, the next steps include working with departments to set up processes and liaisons. “Buncombe County’s Language Access Plan will help make sure people accessing County services are aware that language interpretation is available free of charge to them and that they do not need to bring their own interpreter. It will make it easier for individuals to interact with and receive services from the County.” explains Aaron. “Staff will know how to access interpreter services to assist clients and be aware of best practices for working with interpreters.” One of those first steps is to promote the language services are available by creating signage in Russian, Spanish, and Ukrainian, with additional languages to follow.

And while this will undoubtedly help improve accessibility to County services, the plan also provides significant benefits for the overall community including:

  • Equal access for all residents: County governments serve all residents, regardless of their native language. By providing information and services in multiple languages, the government ensures everyone can access what they need, promoting fairness and inclusion.
  • Public safety: During emergencies or public health crises, clear communication is essential. Language barriers can hinder residents with limited English proficiency from receiving critical information, putting them at risk. Ensuring information is accessible in multiple languages helps keep everyone safe.
  • Economic development: A diverse population can be a boon to the County's economy. By offering language access, the government creates a more welcoming environment for businesses that cater to diverse populations. This can attract new businesses and help existing ones thrive.
  • Civic engagement: An informed and engaged community is vital for a healthy democracy. Language access allows residents to participate in the democratic process by providing government information and public meeting materials in multiple languages. This empowers residents to stay informed, voice opinions, and hold elected officials accountable.
  • Legal compliance: Many federal laws mandate that government agencies provide certain services and information in multiple languages. Language access programs help counties comply with these legal requirements.

Buncombe County is excited about the next steps to increase language access. We would like to thank all our community and statewide partners for their assistance and insights. Buncombe also extends its gratitude to the following former and current employees who helped create the plan: Rocio Quintero, Tammy Stewart, Aaron Vidaurri, Rasheeda Hall, and Carolina Siliceo Perez. And special thanks to the Poder Emma team of Rocio Alviter, Jonathan Palma, and Andrea Golden.

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Language Access Plan 593 KB 06/05/2024 2:43 PM

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Updated Jun 13, 2024 01:48 PM
Published Jun 05, 2024 01:54 PM

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