Accessibility with Limited English Proficiency

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The United States is a melting pot of different cultures, races, and nationalities as well as people with varying levels of disabilities. As you know, not everyone living in the U.S. speaks perfect English and that can sometimes become an issue for some disabled individuals. Trying to convey your situation may be difficult enough with some disabilities, but doing so in a foreign language can only add to the difficulty. Sometimes, people with disabilities and limited english proficiency are pushed to the side or they may even feel that since they cannot express themselves, they are not able to receive the help they need. The truth is, these people have rights and they should know what they are and how they are covered.

Limited English proficient (LEP) refers to individuals who do not speak English as their primary language and have a limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English. This definition includes individuals with sensory impairments, who are Deaf or hard of hearing and communicate using American Sign Language, have speech impairments, or that are blind or have visual impairments. LEP individuals may be entitled to language services or communication assistance for a service, benefit, or program that receives federal assistance.

Through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504, the protections apply equally to LEP individuals with disabilities or that are Deaf or hard of hearing (HOH). There are also many assistive technical (AT) devices that are available to LEP individuals with disabilities.

Entities covered by the provisions of Section 504 and the ADA must provide services and programs in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities and make reasonable modifications in their policies, practices, and procedures to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability.

They must also provide auxiliary aids to individuals with disabilities, at no additional cost, where necessary to ensure effective communication with individuals with hearing, vision, or speech impairments. Auxiliary aids include such devices as qualified interpreters, assistive listening headsets, television captioning and decoders, telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDDs), videotext displays, readers, taped texts, brailled materials, and large print materials.
The importance of providing these basic rights to people with a limited English proficiency is vital to helping these people live ordinary lives. Imagine if you were unable to voice your problems clearly to someone that could potentially help. Unfortunately, this is a nightmare that some individuals live because of the lack of knowledge about what the ADA and Section 504 will provide for them. Allowing these individuals the ability to live normal, healthy lives with the assistance they need can only help our multicultural country continue to blossom.