Long Beach Campaigns for Language Access

Campaigners in Long Beach, CA gathered outside city hall on Tuesday, to emphasize city's the need for better 'language access' in the run up to this week's council meeting.

The rally addressed the Council directly, following a 2013 approval of the city-wide Language Access Policy (LAP).

Promising better language education and resources for speakers of Spanish, Tagalog and Khmer, the $500k+ program was set to be implemented last year, but is still yet to be unveiled.

"What the city had agreed to do was to basically implement a series of programs and protocols to expand access" said Parent Education Organizer for Building Healthy Communities Long Beach, Laura Merryfield.

Long Beach is home to over 62,000 Spanish speakers and over 13,500 Tagalog and Khmer speakers, in desperate need of translation services in the public sector.

Merryfield continued "We don't ask that we have quatrilingual people at every front desk, but that we know where they are. Having vital documents in multiple languages. Not using children as interpreters. These are necessities".

According to the most recent council compliance report, in addition to research conducted by the Long Beach Language Access Coalition (LBLAC), no translations of formal documents have been made and no plans have been announced to improve translation training – as suggested by the Council last August.

A number of requests were made at Tuesday’s demonstration; many for basic needs such as the translation of vital documents into Spanish, Khmer and Tagalog and the inclusion of these languages as an option on public voicemail services.

“Back in August, we were very happy—and for obvious reasons: our council passed a very progressive policy,” Merryfield said. “Now with where we’re at, our advocacy is about making the details that were supposed to happen actually happen.

The council is set to meet again in July with aims of presenting a budget to implement these changes.

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