Language Access Projects Crucial to Making Legal Services Accessible

Language access is crucial explains Lonnie Powers, as many people with limited English skills struggle to navigate the justice system.

Blog Post (California, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, NATIONAL, New York)

Lonnie A. Powers
Huffington Post
May 22, 2014
Link to blog

Tags: Immigration Process, Language Access

Organizations mentioned/involved: American Bar Association (ABA), Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), Language Access Coalition (DC), Legal Services NYC (LSNYC)


People who do not speak English, or who have limited proficiency with English, can face many challenges when trying to access government services or pursue justice through the courts. Federal law and regulations have established standards to shield limited English proficient (LEP) persons from illegal discrimination.

But the reality is that such people are often left to advocate for themselves in individual courts and local governmental offices, and due to limited English proficiency, they are often unable to do so effectively.

It’s not at all uncommon for our civil legal aid advocates to work with recent immigrants and refugees who have next to no proficiency in English and who are dealing with complex issues, such as eviction from housing or denial of health care benefits. More often than not, our clients have been instructed by court clerks and government officials to bring a family member or friend who can translate for them. In some instances, they will even try to have an LEP person’s child translate sensitive information.