About the Law
There are millions of New Yorkers who do not speak English as their primary language and have limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English. For these New Yorkers, their Limited English Proficient (LEP) status presents potential barriers to accessing important government programs and services.
In April 2022, Governor Hochul enacted New York State’s current language access policy as part of the FY 2023 Enacted Budget. This new law, which took effect on July 1, 2022, codified and expanded New York’s previous language access policy. Under the language access law, all State agencies that interact with the public must provide interpretation services in any language with respect to the provision of agency services or benefits, and must translate vital agency documents into the top 12 most commonly spoken non-English languages among LEP New Yorkers based on Census data.
Under the new law, State agencies also have the option to offer up to four additional languages beyond the required 12 based on factors such as regional language access needs, the number of recently arrived immigrants who have limited English proficiency, feedback from community groups, and the populations of individuals with limited English proficiency most commonly served by different agencies. Any additional languages will be decided by each agency in consultation with the Office of Language Access, providing important flexibility in responding to specific language access needs across different agencies and throughout different areas of the state.
What does the language access law require?
The language access law requires agencies to:
- Provide oral interpretation services between the agency and an individual in the individual’s primary language with respect to the provision of services or benefits by the agency.
- Translate vital documents relevant to services offered by the agency into the 12 most common non-English languages spoken by Limited English Proficient individuals based on the most recent Census Bureau data from the American Community Survey (“ACS”).
Agencies, in consultation with the Office of General Services, may translate vital documents in up to four additional languages based on criteria identified in the language access law. These criteria include: the number of recently arrived immigrants who have limited English proficiency; the growth of recent arrival populations in the geographic regions throughout the state where the agency’s services are offered; the population of Limited English Proficient individuals served by the agency; feedback from the community; and other relevant data published by the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Designate a Language Access Coordinator who will work with the Office of General Services to ensure compliance with the requirements of the law.
- Develop and submit a Language Access Plan to the Office of General Services and publish it on the agency’s website. Agencies must update and reissue their Language Access Plans every two years.
Top 12 NYS non-English Languages
What are the 12 most common non-English languages spoken in New York State?
Over 5.7 million people living in New York report speaking a language other than English. Of these, 2.5 million report speaking English less than well. Based on the 2020 American Community Survey, the top 12 most common languages among Limited English Proficient New Yorkers are:
- Haitian Creole
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Table B16001, 2020 5-year estimate. American Community Survey
American Sign Language
If you or someone you know needs sign language interpretation services, please contact the New York State Chief Disability Officer, Kim Hill, at [email protected].
Language Access Plans
What is a Language Access Plan?
A Language Access Plan sets forth the actions an agency will take to ensure meaningful access to their services for Limited English Proficient New Yorkers. This includes but is not limited to providing a list of translated documents and the languages in which those documents are available, identifying agency staff who have language access skills and abilities, preparing a training plan and annual monitoring plan, and describing outreach strategies. Agencies are required to update their Language Access Plans at least every two years.
Below are language access plans for all state agencies that provide direct services to the public. The plans are effective August 1, 2021. Agencies will update their plans on October 1, 2022, and again every two years after that.
Who can be contacted to discuss Language Access services at different agencies?
State agencies that provide Language Access services must have a designated Language Access Coordinator that monitors the agency’s compliance with the language access law. The name and contact information of each agency’s Language Access Coordinator are provided below.
Submit a Complaint
What if someone does not receive adequate language assistance or is denied services?
It is the policy of New York State for covered agencies to provide language access services for public services and programs. If you or someone you know feel that you have not been provided with adequate language access services, including translation or interpretation, please fill out our language access complaint form.