Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition

Language Access

Language issues can create a substantial barrier in interaction with public institutions, which often struggle to provide workable ways to interact with those still learning English. All institutions receiving federal funds are required to provide appropriate language access. This issue is especially important for health care, law enforcement and emergency services, so that accurate and time sensitive information can be communicated. Schools and libraries play an important role in helping to educate and integrate immigrant communities. And service agencies need to communicate with families in order to help them.

PICC has worked with the Philadelphia health centers, the Philadelphia Police Department, and the City of Philadelphia as a whole to develop language access policies and practices that will help the City to better serve individuals that are learning English.

Examples of success include:

• Executive Order 9-08 was issued by Mayor Nutter in June of 2008, which requires all City Departments, Agencies, Boards and Commissions to develop policies and protocols to carry out the provision of language access services, and increase bi/multilingual personnel.

• Act 172 went into effect in Pennsylvania in January of 2007, creating a certification system for court interpreters and requiring their use in all state court and almost all state and local administrative agency hearings in which a party, witness or crime victim doesn’t speak English well. Work continues to ensure that all courts and agencies are aware of and properly abide by this law, and funding is allocated to provide interpretation.

• Philadelphia Police Department Directive 71 on language services was issued in December 2005 after 2 ½ years of work with the Office of Civil Rights, Department of Justice and the Philadelphia Police Department.  All officers were trained in 2006 and new recruits are trained in the academy. Visit our public safety page to learn more about work with local law enforcement.