Even though Mayor Bloomberg signed an executive order requiring city agencies to provide interpreters for "limited-English-proficient" (LEP) New Yorkers two years ago, not many people have been listening. According to a new study from Make the Road [PDF], many agencies fail to provide language assistance, there are huge disparities between agencies and boroughs, and many LEP New Yorkers don't even know the services exist.
Bronx-based services provided the most services overall, and Spanish speakers got the best service, followed by Bengali, Urdu/Hindi and Korean. Just 7% of Food Stamp centers had any sort of translation service for Korean speakers. The NYPD failed to provide services to 67% of participants, while HRA didn't provide assistance to 44%. And almost none were connected to interpreters by phone.
HRA officials attempted to cover their steps, telling City Room that the study "misrepresents HRA’s progress in implementing language access mandates." But Make the Road isn't buying it. Executive director Andrew Friedman said, "The commitment is there, but the time has come for the city to prioritize it and get it right. More vigilance, more oversight and more powerful commitment at all levels of city agencies are critical to closing the circle on this." And if the kids are going full years without English teachers, we're going to need all the help we can get.