Meaningful access: What it means for your business

We talk a lot about "meaningful access" in the language services industry. After all, it’s one of the legal standards by which most of our clients are measured. Nearly every organization, agency or program that receives federal funding of any kind is required to provide limited-English-proficiency individuals with "meaningful access" to its services.

But what is "meaningful access," and what does it look like in the day-to-day operation of your business? Let’s start with some background.



'Meaningful access': What it means for your business

We talk a lot about "meaningful access" in the language services industry. After all, it's one of the legal standards by which most of our clients are measured. Nearly every organization, agency or program that receives federal funding of any kind is required to provide limited-English-proficiency individuals with "meaningful access" to its services.

But what is "meaningful access," and what does it look like in the day-to-day operation of your business? Let’s start with some background.


Why "meaningful access"?

Protection for LEP individuals was first provided by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 , which prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin. This protection was underscored in 2000 when President George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13166, "Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency." The order states: "Each Federal agency shall also work to ensure that recipients of Federal financial assistance (recipients) provide meaningful access to their LEP applicants and beneficiaries."


Stated more plainly, recipients of federal funds must ensure that programs normally provided in English are accessible to LEP individuals. Failure to comply is a violation of the executive order and of Title VI.


What organizations must comply?

Obviously, federal agencies must provide meaningful access, but unfortunately it’s not that simple. Federal funding touches all kinds of organizations in direct and indirect ways. As a result, the meaningful access standard applies to thousands of organizations across many sectors, including healthcare, education, communications, legal, real estate/housing, transportation, utilities and many others.

How does an organization get started?


What meaningful access means and what it looks like in the day-to-day operations of a business will vary from organization to organization. To help businesses comply with EO 13166, the U.S. Department of Justice has created a four-factor analysis that provides a framework for self-assessment. The factors include:

  • Demographics: How many LEP individuals from a particular language group does your organization serve? The greater the number, the more likely language assistance services are required.

  • Frequency of contact: How often does your organization encounter LEP individuals?

  • Importance: How important are your services to the lives of LEP persons? Would denial of access have serious implications?

  • Resources: What resources (both financial and otherwise) are available to provide language services, and would doing so cause an undue burden?

For most businesses, providing meaningful access involves some mix of internal and external resources. A health system, for example, might employ a Spanish interpreter but partner with a language services provider such as VOLATIA to bridge other language gaps.


How can VOLATIA help?

When we first meet with a potential new client, we do a basic assessment of the existing language access plan, if there is one. Our examination revolves around three main areas:

  • What is the current state of compliance by the organization? (Or even more simply: What do you do when you encounter an LEP client or patient?)

  • What are the desired outcomes of the language access plan?

  • What is the current level of satisfaction with the program through the eyes of the service provider?

This no-cost analysis helps us start a conversation that ends in a much clearer picture of how language services can be woven into your company’s operations and culture to help you provide meaningful access to LEP individuals.

Every day, VOLATIA helps businesses develop language access plans that bring them into compliance with the meaningful access standard and create a model for 21st-century customer service. Contact us today to schedule an assessment and to learn more about making VOLATIA your language partner.



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