According to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), public transit is a key means of achieving mobility for many people with Limited English Proficiency (LEP). FTA’s Office of Civil Rights defines LEP populations as: “Individuals who do not speak English as their primary language and who have a limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English can be limited English proficient; or Households where no one over age 14 speaks English well are linguistically isolated.” According to the 2000 Census, more than 11 percent of persons with limited English proficiency reported public transportation as their primary means of getting to work in contrast to four percent of fluent English speakers. Because they lack the ability to speak English well, this population often works in jobs that require few communication skills, which tend to pay low-wages, and are likely to depend on coordinated public and human services transportation.
Many resources exist to help transportation providers adhere to Title VI and reach out to LEP individuals. The Federal Interagency Working Group on Limited English Proficiency promotes a positive and cooperative understanding of the importance of language access to federally conducted and federally assisted programs. Also, while Census 2010 LEP info has not yet been released, the Department of Labor’s Education and Training Administration has issued a Special Tabulation of LEP Information from Census 2000. You can also find state by state data on the Census Bureau’s Ability to Speak English by Language Spoken at Home table. The National Resource Center for Human Service Transportation Coordination also maintains a collection of LEP resources on its website.
Communities should find locally appropriate solutions while applying federal guidance. The Eaton County (Mississippi) Transportation Authority, or EATRAN, uses the following plan to identify individuals who needs language assistance:
- Examine records requests for language assistance from past meetings and events to anticipate the possible need for assistance at upcoming meetings;
- When EATRAN sponsored workshops or conferences are held, set up a sign-in sheet table, have a staff member greet and informally gage the attendee’s ability and understand English by asking a question that requires a full sentence reply;
- Have the Census Bureau’s “I Speak” cards at the workshop or conference sign-in sheet table; and
- Survey drivers and other first line staff on an annual basis at the beginning of each fiscal year regarding their experience on having any direct or indirect contact with LEP individuals.
Outreach to LEP populations is a priority in certain demographic areas. Amy St. Peter, Human Services Manager at the Maricopa (Arizona) Association of Governments says, “We make it a priority to make all our resources available in formats and language that is easily understood by the mainstream population, including LEP. Our Transportation Ambassador Program has been invaluable to reaching out to LEP populations. We train the messengers and they deliver the message in a way that is best understood in their networks.”
If you are in need of additional assistance on LEP issues, please contact FTA’s Amber Ontiveros, Equal Opportunity Specialist, Office of Civil Rights at 202-366-5130 or via email@example.com.