A language access plan is a document that describes how an organization plans to provide services to individuals who are non-English speaking or have limited English proficiency (LEP). A language access plan helps to facilitate and articulate an organizations’ needs, budgets, and ensure civil rights over a period of time. While the content may vary, a language access plan usually includes subjects such as:
- Policy statements
- Needs assessment
- Language services offered
- Training for staff
- Other sections as needed
As the new calendar year is approaching, you may be planning or finishing up your plans, including your yearly budget requests. This is a great time to involve your language service provider (LSP) with your plan. Working with your LSP to strategize about your plan can make your organization more self-sufficient, save you money and time, mitigate risks, increase service quality, and overall, see a higher ROI. So just as you’d create a marketing strategy, you should also create a language access plan strategy with your LSP.
Your LSP as a Consultant: Take Advantage of What They Can Offer
You may have some ideas about how to save time and money on translations, which is a great start, but your LSP is the expert and can provide invaluable advice and insight. An LSP is in a particularly advantageous position to help strategize your organization’s language needs, so together, you can maximize your investment in translations and bring awareness of your plans to your LSP so they can support you for the year. You can consult with your LSP or contract their services to create or modify a comprehensive language access plan. Let’s look at how an LSP can help.
#1 Offer Expert and Timely Recommendations
An LSP knows how organizations create and manage language access plans. Depending on your location, your LSP may also know the region and what other organizations in that area are doing for specific language requirements and language pairs.
An LSP can also help you better understand vital documents and what’s required for your specific threshold languages, as well as identify any holes in meeting compliance requirements or providing recommendations for risk management. They can also recommend where to focus and where it might be acceptable to skimp to save funds for critical areas.
An LSP will also be up-to-date on trends with plans as well as federal and local laws. They’ll also know what others have done recently with success, and on the flip side, what hasn’t worked as well. For example, in 2018, the California Voting for All Act (Assembly Bill (AB) 918) expanded language requirements from county-level to precinct level. Since we work on language services for elections with over half of California’s counties, we were able to help notify current customers of the new requirements.
Ultimately, an LSP’s guidance should enable your organization to become more self-sufficient and autonomous. And the less time you need to spend on details throughout the year, the more you’ll save since time is money.
#2 Strategize About Your Services and Budget
An LSP can review your services and budget, and strategize with you about where your funds should go to maximize your return on investment. In addition, an LSP can see where there might be other options than what you’ve laid out, and ways in which you can spend less money or meet goals in different ways.
For example, we met with a company that provided healthcare services and plans. The company had a full-time website developer on staff, so we didn’t need to implement the translated website content or accessibility changes that we recommended. Instead, we provided reports and reviews so that the website developer could implement the changes, which we also prioritized for the implementation. As a result, they were able to update their website into new languages and meet accessibility needs, while strategizing their profit making use of already available resources.
#3 Leverage Data for Your Needs Assessment
If you’re relatively new to preparing a language needs plan, or even if you’ve been doing them for a while, it always helps to get refreshed data for planning purposes. The 2020 census provided an update on who we are as a country. This information will help guide those who work with the LEP population.
We can take that one step further. We can take your data, analyze it, and prepare it with the latest data and local needs. And if you use our language services, we can use data from past years to make the data even richer and identify patterns of use for predicted needs in the future.
#4 Advise on Emergency Plans and Options
No matter how well anyone plans, emergencies do arise. And when these situations occur, you want a partner in your LSP not just to help get you through it, but also to provide options and confidence in the ability to deliver.
In one such case, we helped the Riverside, California County Registrar of Voters when they had to adjust their operations for an emergency for the US 2020 Presidential Election due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the 4th most populous county in California, Riverside County needed to revise all of their election materials before the election in a short timeline. They leveraged our Customer Portal to manage the logistics of translating and formatting materials in five languages (over 140,000 words), resulting in content that we delivered on time and within budget.
#5 Advise on Internal Training and Communication Plans
One of the last, but most important parts, of implementing a language access plan is to train your internal staff on the processes and procedures. In other words, what do the day-to-day services and interactions look like? Is your team prepared?
For example, let’s say you have an over-the-phone interpretation option. However, if a staff member doesn’t know that option is available, or if they need a code to dial into the service they don’t have, that person may use Google translate to get through the situation, resulting in a poor or even wrong interaction.
Make sure all the bases are covered. For example, we can help your staff learn what to do for language requests, how to understand language needs, what to do during a language complaint, how to identify a language, how to create policy posters, etc.
Creating a language plan on your own is a great start, but incorporating the consultative services of an LSP will provide the expert trends, experience, and data to make it more successful. Any upfront costs can ultimately save time and money in the long run. So instead of thinking about your LSP as just a service provider, think of them as a strategist, consultant, and partner. Working with an LSP upfront can also help your language plan framework for the years to come.
To learn more about how we can help you with your language service plans, contact us at [email protected] or (530) 750-2040.