December 11, 2000
Executive Order 13166 issued on August 11, 2000, and subsequent guidance from the Department of Justice (DOJ), address provisions in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting national origin discrimination when information is provided only in English to persons with Limited English Proficiency (LEP). Federal agencies have been directed to implement plans for improving access to services for persons with limited English proficiency.
This plan has been developed for use by the staff of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
We reviewed calls and correspondence received in the major gateways to CPSC: the consumer Hotline, National Injury Information Clearinghouse, the Office of the Secretary, and CPSC Field Offices. An estimated 725 contacts from Spanish-speaking people are made through these gateways each year, mostly phone calls, and approximately 650 of these are received through the Hotline. People who speak other languages make an additional 25 contacts annually to CPSC. Most of these are from Chinese-speaking people.
The CPSC Hotline provides information about product recalls, guidance on using products safely, and takes reports about unsafe products from the public. The Hotline has staff members who speak both English and Spanish. The Hotline introductory menu has a prompt in Spanish for Spanish-speaking callers who wish to hear recorded information or speak with a Hotline representative in Spanish. Bilingual Hotline representatives translate selected scripts, aided by translation software, and record them on the Hotline recorded message system. One Hotline representative has proficiency in Chinese and takes one or two calls each year from Chinese-speaking consumers.
In 1994, in recognizing the occasional need to handle Hotline calls in languages other than English and Spanish, the CPSC staff compiled a list, or "Language Bank" of staff volunteers with fluency in some 16 Languages other than English. Through the Language Bank, we are able assist callers who are better served by speaking with staff in languages other than English. Creating the language bank was part of a broader effort to "reinvent" the CPSC Hotline to improve customer service. Language Bank volunteers agree to take calls or respond to correspondence from LEP individuals. Volunteers fluent in the languages of callers or correspondents are asked to deal directly with LEP persons in responding to inquiries. Technical staff is called upon as necessary in order to assist volunteers in providing requested information. We ask for assistance from volunteers to help callers less than once a year.
Calls and correspondence from LEP individuals received through other gateways are referred to staff members who speak the language of the person contacting the agency, usually Spanish. LEP callers generally have sufficient proficiency to explain the need to speak with a CPSC staff member in another language.
CPSC translates and prints selected publications and news releases in Spanish, and posts them on its web site. CPSC maintains a Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) with a Spanish translator for this purpose. CPSC currently has nearly 50 documents in Spanish on its web site. Printed versions of more than 20 titles are available in Spanish.
The following proposed improvements have been developed following a meeting in November 2000 at the Department of Justice with stakeholder groups representing people who speak a number of languages including Spanish, Arabic and Asian languages. While these groups focused primarily on the needs of people with LEP at the community level, the need for consumer information disseminated nationally by agencies such as CPSC was clearly demonstrated.
Therefore, we will:
- Improve translation assistance. We will update the CPSC Language Bank list of staff volunteers who are willing to provide language assistance. We will send an email notice to all CPSC staff about the executive order and our responsibility to provide information and assistance to LEP individuals who contact us, and advise staff to contact and conference Language Bank volunteers into phone calls when needed to communicate effectively with callers. We will post the Language Bank list on the CPSC Intranet for staff use. Target completion date: January 31, 2001. We will establish a Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) with a language line, a contract service that can be called and conferenced into calls when Language Bank volunteers are not available. GSA has established a supply schedule to facilitate the purchase of a variety of language services including language lines (Schedule 738 II). We will also establish a BPA for translating documents received in languages other than English and Spanish, and to translate CPSC documents. We will provide instructions on the Intranet on when and how staff should use the Language Bank, language line and other translation services. Target completion date: February 28, 2001.
- Increase awareness among LEP populations about available CPSC information and services. We will identify and consult with stakeholders and non-English media about to determine the most effective means to reach LEP populations with CPSC information in languages other than English. Target Date: February 28, 2001.
- Provide training to staff on CPSC's LEP plan and on handling calls from people with LEP. We will develop training in-house or through an outside contractor on the background and purpose of the LEP initiative. Training will include techniques on how to communicate over the phone with LEP callers using simple phrases in order to determine language needs and provide language assistance. Target completion date: March 31, 2001. We will then provide training to staff. Target completion date: May 31, 2001
- Develop Hotline messages and web site information for those with LEP. We will develop a plan to provide messages and documents in additional languages about CPSC services and how to communicate with CPSC orally and in writing in languages other than English. We will evaluate the feasibility of taking incident reports through our Hotline in languages other than English and Spanish. Potential new documents on CPSC's web site include forms in additional languages for submitting reports about unsafe products, and information outlining CPSC's mission and available public information and services. We will identify and consult with stakeholders to determine information most pertinent to those who speak languages other than English, and propose that selected, priority documents be translated based on funding availability and feedback from stakeholders. Target completion date: June 30, 2001.
- Evaluate the need for a policy to include participation and needs of LEP populations at CPSC public meetings. Consult with stakeholder groups to determine if a CPSC policy regarding public meetings is needed. Target completion date: June 30, 2001.
- Evaluate feasibility of providing dedicated toll-free numbers for language assistance. We will review possible use of interpreter services that can be called directly and toll-free by LEP persons. These interpreters would then call CPSC Hotline staff to obtain information for callers or to submit incident reports. Develop cost estimates for this service. Target completion date: June 30, 2001.
- Identify and evaluate in-house computer-based translation tools. We will evaluate availability, costs and integration of translation software into CPSC systems and identify possible software tools for web and phone use. Target completion date: June 30, 2001.
- Evaluate needs of LEP populations when developing cooperative information programs with outside groups. We will consider the needs of LEP populations when we develop cooperative information programs with national and community-based groups, private sector organizations, and other government agencies. We will consult with stakeholder groups in determining these needs and provide information in languages other than English, as appropriate.
- Log and evaluate calls and correspondence received from those with LEP. We will evaluate contacts from LEP persons periodically to determine if the CPSC plan is adequate to maintain compliance with the Executive Order, and to determine if the plan needs to be modified to accommodate increasing contacts from people with LEP.
- Consider appointing an LEP Officer. After this plan is in place one year, we will determine if a CPSC LEP Officer should be appointed to serve as an advocate for LEP persons who contact CPSC. A decision to appoint an LEP Officer should be based on the review of any increasing use and demand for services to LEP individuals. An LEP Officer would serve as liaison to stakeholders.