National Council on Disability Update (December 21, 2013 - December 31, 2014)
Executive Order 13166 Language Access Plan Implementation
Before Executive Order (E.O.) 13166 was initiated in 2000, the National Council on Disability (NCD) was engaged in public policy efforts to address unmet language access needs, including limited English proficiency (LEP) among people with disabilities. As described in NCD’s first Language Access Plan (LAP) submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2000, NCD has conducted outreach since the 1980s through regional hearings, forums, and other venues for public input and data collection. Already, NCD was making available to the public: (1) general information brochures about its mission, goals, and legislative mandate in Spanish (Consejo Nacional sobre Personnas con Discapacidad A Simple Vista) and English (National Council on Disability At a Glance); and (2) several policy reports in Chinese and Spanish. NCD’s 2003 revised Language Assistance Plan for Implementation of Executive Order 13166--Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency (/publications/2003/01022003) details the agency’s historical language access work. During the intervening 12 years, NCD has continued to assess ways to enhance strategies and actions that benefit people with disabilities and their families.
During the period of December 2013 through December 2014, NCD’s activities related to the LAP were aligned with the revised 2012-2017 strategic plan (See: Overview, Strategic Goal, NCD Strategic Plan, Updated March 2013). With regard to increasing effective communication for all people with disabilities, NCD continues its focus on the broadened scope of language access, which was introduced in the previous LAP annual report. To recap, the broadened scope involves people with disabilities whose needs include, but might not be limited to: (1) reducing the potential harmful impact of LEP and avoiding discrimination (Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) (Title VI); (2) receiving timely information in clear, user friendly uncomplicated, understandable plain language (Plain Writing Act of 2010); and/or (3) having timely access to alternate forms of communication (e.g., American Sign Language (ASL), Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), Braille, large-print, closed captioning, and so forth) as a reasonable accommodation ((Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Amendments Act)).
NCD reports its progress below on three action items of focus—federal funds recipient guidance, outreach, and periodic updates.
1. Federal Funds Recipient Guidance: NCD revised sections of its model cooperative agreement used for public policy projects to clarify who accountability for ensuring accessibility and diversity across NCD’s projects. Under each cooperative agreement (Article 5 and Attachment 1, within the Document Access Requirements), NCD and the funds’ recipients who partner on research and relevant policy work commit to carry out E.O. 13166 and the Plain Language Act as follows:
(a) Implementation of Executive Orderr 13166 “Improving Access to Services for People with Limited English Proficiency”--
NCD is committed to ensuring that Recipients and Contractors are provided information regarding the federal requirements under Executive Order 13166, which holds federal agencies accountable for providing information to Recipients and Contractors about the need to implement practices that demonstrate cultural and linguistic sensitivity to members of the public who have limited English proficiency, including cultural and linguistic differences among people with disabilities who need access to health care and related services. Recipient must take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to their programs and activities by persons with limited English proficiency. (Cooperative Agreement Article 5.5.2)
NCD is committed to ensuring that Recipients and Contractors comply with the federal government’s plain language obligations, pursuant to the Plain Writing Act of 2010 and Executive Orders 12866 and 12988. Accordingly, Recipients and Contractors must write all new publications, forms, and publicly distributed documents in a “clear, concise, well-organized” manner. (Cooperative Agreement Article 5.5.3)
NCD is committed to ensuring that the agency’s work reflects the experiences of the entire disability community. To that end, Recipients and Contractors must ensure that all outreach, such as focus groups, expert panels, participants in questionnaires, or other stakeholder input or comment activities, is conducted to ensure participation across age, gender, sexual orientation, race, national origin, and disability. (Cooperative agreement Article 5.5.4)
(b) Attachment 1 summarizes the NCD Document Access and Formatting Requirements. It recaps LEP information which basically underscores information described in Article 5 above. It also identifies the role of clear language as follows.
NCD reports must comply with the federal government’s plain language obligations, pursuant to the Plain Writing Act of 2010 and Executive Orders 12866 and 12988. Accordingly, Recipients and Contractors must write all new publications, forms, and publicly distributed documents in a “clear, concise, well-organized” manner. (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-111publ274/pdf/PLAW-111publ274.pdf)
2. Outreach: As part of NCD’s ongoing outreach work, in January 2014, NCD added a link on its website’s homepage that reads “Language Access Needs?” Readers who click the item open a direct link to NCD’s email address at firstname.lastname@example.org.The intent of this language access link is to make available another tool for reaching traditionally underserved people with disabilities. While a good deal of language access work generally focuses on avoiding discrimination against people with disabilities who have LEP needs (Title VI), NCD also continues to broaden its Title VI efforts to complement other federal laws. Among the examples are compliance with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as Amended, the ADA, and the Plain Writing Act, which is not an exhaustive list.
3. Periodic Updates: The consistent annual posting of this report on the agency website is an indicator of NCD’s commitment to conduct periodic evaluation and LAP updates at least annually. Similar to the previous year, NCD included language access information in its internal monthly policy team updates, which serve as an avenue for awareness-raising among agency staff and Councilmembers regarding diverse needs in public policy. For users of ASL, while not all of the website postings were new in 2014, NCD continued to draw attention to its online efforts to make information about agency work accessible. Examples of online updates are available at URLs such as /about; andhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZnAn_rx4EM.
In addition to continuation of the initiatives described in previous LAP reports, in 2015, NCD intends to build upon actions taken in 2014 plus further outreach to people with LEP needs.
Agency Outreach: Staff engaged with the LAP working group will identify the costs (financial & time) of four potential actions including to:
(a) Revisit the NCD brochure concept (e.g., Consider an update that synchronizes the brochure with current information on the NCD website; post/print in Spanish and English);
(b) Consider processes that can facilitate posting the agency’s current “About Us” information in other languages, as needed. Use written, telephone/videophone LEP inquiries to gather data for making informed decisions about prioritizing which languages are needed;
(c) Explore the feasibility of repositioning document locations to improve public access to information already posted in written languages other than English; and.
(d) Develop a strategic plan statement that clarifies NCD’s policy and action(s) to remove LEP and other access barriers to information and communication with and among future leaders. This action item will align with NCD’s strategic plan, Strategy 1E: Cultivate future leaders of the disability community. The applicable Key Outcomes 1E reads: Successfully engaging in this strategy will ensure a multi-generational and ethnically and culturally diverse approach to NCD’s policy development (See: Objective 1: Engagement, Strategy 1E, NCD Strategic Plan, Updated March 2013 (DOCX, 200K)
NCD concludes this report of progress by recognizing the value added in having online access to DOJ’s meaningful guidance, other resources, and the contributions of federal partners on the Interagency Working Group on Limited English Proficiency. Thank you.
 The term “action item” is used in DOJ guidance. Accessed January 17, 2015http://www.lep.gov/13166/AG_021711_EO_13166_Memo_to_Agencies_with_Supplement.pdf