What Is Limited English Proficiency (LEP) in the Context of Language Access?

Language access refers to the services employed by various agencies to remove the communication gap between two individuals who do not speak the same language. In the United States, there are federal laws and executive orders designed to obligate federal government-funded agencies to observe the requirements for language access.

Individuals with limited English proficiency benefit from different services through language access. LEP, or Limited English Proficiency, is a term used to describe people who can’t read, speak, write, or understand English fluently. Therefore, these individuals are eligible to receive language assistance.

LEP And Language Access

People who do not speak English as a first language and have difficulty communicating properly often require assistance from an interpreter or a document translator to make sense of a situation. People who get this support also benefit from equal access to various programs.

The Limited English Proficiency regulations are managed and maintained by the Federal Coordination and Compliance Section (FCS) in the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice. The website encourages users to access resources and submit complaints against discrimination.

What Prompted the Creation Of LEP?

The term LEP was initially coined by James Crawford (of the Institute for Language and Education Policy) in 1975 to assign a label with a positive connotation.

Limited English Proficiency became a widely known term on August 11, 2000, when President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13166 to provide assistance and equal opportunities to those with limited English speaking abilities.

Executive Order 13166 covers two distinct proposals. The first component touches upon improving the regulation of the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which disallows discrimination based on national origin. As defined in Title VI, the acts of discrimination include the refusal to provide meaningful access to individuals with limited English proficiencies.

The Executive Order obliges federal financing agencies to provide a set of clear guidelines for recipients of federal financial assistance.

The second component requires federal agencies to comply with the same regulations as federal financial assistance recipients to provide meaningful access for LEP individuals.

The Executive Order’s implementation gives people with Limited English Proficiencies the ability to make an informed decision no matter what the setting. This can be influential in the healthcare and educational sectors, as communication barriers would no longer hinder LEP individuals.

LEP: Translation and Interpretation Requirements

Federal organizations are encouraged to follow some requisites for translation and interpretation to bridge the communication gap effectively. Institutions that do not have in-house bilingual resources have the liberty to take assistance from third-party language translators or interpreters.

Essentially, organizations must seek language assistance services from a competent and skilled agency that understands the language’s cultural nuances. Firms that sign up with third-party agencies are encouraged to draft a written document that highlights the roles and responsibilities of the written language assistance services agreement.

Lastly, agencies must also develop Language Access Procedures, which can serve as guidelines for the staff to collect information and devise and deliver language services to LEP individuals. Language Access Procedures can be compiled as written manuals, digital files, desk references, telephone notations, and other similar forms.

The Bottom Line

Language barriers can be significant obstacles for people with limited English proficiencies, resulting in miscommunication, frustration, and conflict. Therefore, organizations must take comprehensive measures to provide accurate resources to LEP individuals.

If your agency is looking for a third-party service fluent in offering translation and interpretation, get in touch with us now. We have a team of LSP professionals who understand your target audience. Additionally, we provide accurate translations and always keep in mind the cultural nuances to make language accessible and easier to understand.