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NCD Language Access Plan 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011
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(Executive Order 13166), Revised December 2011

This revised language access plan for the National Council on Disability (NCD) is provided in response to the U.S. Attorney General’s request for all federal agency language access plans to include certain action items to implement Executive Order 13166 (EO 13166).1 NCD organized its language access plan in four sections that address: (1) agency background with respect to language and related areas of sensitivity to diversity and cultural differences; (2) language access plan guidance received by this agency on June 16, 2011; (3) responses to seven action items set forth in the guidance; and (4) a statement of agency commitment. For visitors to NCD’s website, additional information about government-wide language access plans for people with limited English proficiency (LEP)2 is available at

Agency Background

The National Council on Disability (NCD) is an independent federal agency that leads national disability policy and advances full inclusion, independence, and equal opportunity for people with disabilities. NCD’s team is comprised of fifteen Senate-confirmed Presidential appointees and a full-time professional staff hired by the Executive Director, who is appointed by the Chairman.The mission of NCD is to be a trusted advisor to the President; Congress; federal entities; state, tribal, and local governments and communities; and private sector entities.

NCD’s policy of outreach to diverse people with disabilities, including people with LEP, is long-standing.3  For example, in chronological order, NCD:

  • Made its printed agency brochure available in Spanish (1995);
  • Conducted public hearings using Spanish, Cantonese, and American Sign  language interpreters for people with limited English proficiency, non-English speakers from the Asian/Pacific Islander and Hispanic communities, and people who were deaf  (1998);
  • Broke new ground by translating Lift Every Voice: Modernizing Disability Policies and Programs to Serve a Diverse Nation into Spanish and Cantonese (1999);
  • Began convening stakeholders from diverse cultures in “think tanks”  (2000);   
  • Translated agency reports (e.g., Back to School on Civil Rights;  Reconstructing Fair Housing; The Accessible Future) into Spanish (2001);
  • Began a practice of including requests for language translation as a reasonable accommodation in advance of each NCD quarterly meeting (2001);
  • Worked with the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) regarding translation software so that  Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and Korean could be added to all federal Web sites under GPO’s purview (2001);
  • Established and worked with a Cultural Diversity Advisory Committee under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (2002 – 2008)
  • Provided language translations for selected regional briefings (2003);
  • Began translating selected news releases and media advisories into Spanish and Chinese  (2003); and
  • Gathered information about basic diversity principles from its Federal Advisory Committee on Cultural Diversity to empower people from diverse cultures with disabilities and their families is to take full advantage of federal laws, programs, and services is to provide them with (1) opportunities for participation in planning and decision making about matters that affect their lives; (2) easy-to-understand, culturally sensitive and appropriate information about what their rights are under various federal laws (e.g., ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, IDEA, the Fair Housing Act); and (3) information on how best to exercise those rights when a violation or discrimination is alleged (See: Embracing Diversity: Background Information on Enhancing Support for Inclusion through Cultural and Linguistic Competence; and Common Myths About Diversity And Cultural Competency)  (2002 - 2008)

Over a decade ago, NCD called for an Administration action to boost stakeholder participation in federal decision-making. This includes people with disabilities and their family members giving feedback to agencies. Similar inclusive planning can be detected in underlying assumptions of the more recent focus on language access needs of people with LEP.4

Language Access Plan Guidance

The Attorney General’s February 2011 memorandum on EO 13166 directs all federal agencies to appoint a member of the staff as Language Access /LEP Coordinator. In the memorandum disseminated in June 2011, he provided supplemental guidance to carry out seven language access action items: coordination; assessment of needs; periodic updates; staff training; outreach; employment qualifications; collaborations and clearinghouse participation; and federal funds recipient guidance. In response to the Attorney General’s request, the National Council on Disability (NCD) addresses each item and the relevance to NCD’s five –year (2012-2017) strategic plan.5

Agency Response to Action Items

Action Item 1 – Coordination

On behalf of NCD’s Executive Director, the Director of Policy will designate a policy team member to serve as LEP Coordinator. Upon submission of the revised plan, on a 6-month interim basis in the first year and on at least an annual basis  thereafter, the NCD policy staff will provide analysis of existing and proposed language access policies and procedures. NCD’s administrative staff as well as the legislative and outreach staff will also provide input. In the long range, targeted for 2013, NCD will formalize the NCD Language Access Working Group, as outlined in EO 13166, and the LEP Coordinator will serve as group chair. 

Strategic Plan Relevance – Coordination of language access planning is aligned with

NCD’s policy development and collaboration objective. Specifically, NCD aims to produce materials that have practical utility for federal, state, tribal, and local stakeholders. Addressing language access needs will help the LEP coordinator carryout overall responsibilities to:

  • Identify barriers to language access;
  • Consult with stakeholders;
  • Formulate strategies and response to overcome language access barriers; and  
  • Ensure consistency with NCD’s mission and strategic plan

Action item 2 - Assessment of Needs

NCD will evaluate and/or update the agency’s current response to the LEP needs of people with disabilities. Staff will: (1) Collect data on languages that people with LEP speak; (2) Identify methods people with LEP use to contact NCD; and (3) Ensure that current policy, procedures, and activities reflect the current LEP needs at NCD (e.g., in-house and contract/cooperative agreement language services, directory of translated documents, signage, and web-based services).

Strategic Plan Relevance –NCD’s implementation of the language access needs assessment is aligned with both meaningful and informed policy development and collaboration as well as the strategic plan’s “Values and Commitment” section.  Specifically, the “Diversity” statement reads as follows:

NCD will honor people with disabilities by embracing the broad spectrum of human difference and by learning about, including, and respecting the various perspectives and backgrounds reflected in the disability community.

Action Item 3 - Periodic Updates

After submission of the December 2011 LAP update, at least annually, NCD will conduct a periodic evaluation and update of agency LEP services, policies, plans, and protocols. The LEP coordinator will develop a process for consulting with frontline staff, management, or others in the NCD office to evaluate language access services needed. The process may include consultation with outside entities (public, non-profit organizations and other community stakeholders, including people with disabilities from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds).

Strategic Plan Relevance – The action item aligns with: (a) Objective 2 (Policy Development & Collaboration – Address stakeholder concerns and priorities by advancing specific, practical policy solutions and encouraging collaboration.) That strategy states: Update NCD’s annual progress report to be more responsive to Congress and the Administration. In this instance, implementation of language access action items would be responsive to the President’s call for carrying out EO 13166.

(b) Means and Key Activities 2D:  Within the progress report, utilize and reference information from stakeholders received throughout each year at NCD events and through multiple channels of correspondence and communication; and

(c) When NCD schedules consideration of interim and annual adjustments to its strategic plan, the language access policies and processes will be considered.

Action Item 4 - Staff Training

In a timely manner, NCD will develop and implement an interim and long-term plan for contracting with language access trainers of agency staff.  A training goal is to ensure that all employees receive the tools/information to identify LEP contact situations and take the steps needed to provide meaningful access to people with disabilities and their families who have LEP needs.  The usefulness, accuracy, cultural sensitivity, and plain language of training materials and methods are important to consider.  NCD will continue its outreach to get cross-disability input from people with disabilities and their families of diverse cultural backgrounds and underrepresented groups (e.g., youth, young adults, residents of rural and remote/isolated areas such as some tribal lands).

Strategic Plan Relevance – This action item is aligned with: (a) Means and Key Activities 3B: Institutionalize professional development through an individual development plan process in conjunction with the implementation of the NCD performance management system; and (b) Means and Key Activities 2C:  Review existing NCD reports for actionable policy recommendations. NCD will revisit some of the recommendations made to the President and Congress in previous reports and earlier NCD Language Access Plans. 

Action Item 5 - Agency Outreach

NCD staff will work collaboratively to communicate regularly with disability advocates and members of communities that include people with LEP in the most effective ways.

Strategic Plan Relevance – NCD’s commitment to outreach is longstanding and reflected throughout the agency’s current strategic plan. Specifically, strategic objectives one and two, outlined below, are consistent with meeting language access needs:

  • ENGAGEMENT – Engage stakeholders in order to assess concerns and priorities and build networks of agency partners. 
  • POLICY DEVELOPMENT & COLLABORATION – Address stakeholder6 concerns and priorities by advancing specific, practical policy solutions and encouraging collaboration.

Action Item 6 - Employment Qualifications

The NCD LEP Coordinator and eventually the staff who serve as Language Access Working Group members will determine whether to make human resource suggestions based on LEP needs of the community.  For example, the group will monitor whether to suggest to the Executive Director that the agency would benefit from including non-English language skills and competency in certain job vacancy announcements and position descriptions.

Strategic Plan Relevance –This action item aligns with NCD’s Strategy 3B – Evaluate  and establish effective agency operations and systems. The strategy indicates that NCD will recalibrate personnel management policies, procedures and processes. Expansions of these plans to include ways to monitor, revise, and enhance employment qualifications to meet language access needs, as appropriate.

Action Item 7 - Collaborations and Clearinghouse Participation

For written translations, NCD will collaborate with other agencies to ensure that the materials are efficient, of high quality, and meet community needs in ways that are appropriate for given audiences.  NCD also will continue its participation in the Interagency Working Group on LEP.

Strategic Plan Relevance –Within the “Values and Commitment” section, NCD’s strategic plan addresses collaboration as follows.  “NCD will coordinate effective practices internally and externally with traditional and non-traditional partners.”

Action Item 8 – Federal Funds Recipient Guidance

NCD will provide the required recipient guidance to contractors with whom we have Cooperative Agreements. These are the contractors who receive federal financial assistance in exchange for the performance of tasks and submission of products to NCD under specific Cooperative Agreements. NCD proposed a model that will be sent for review by the Federal Coordination and Compliance Section of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.

NCD used this model first in the implementation of Executive Order 13166 “Improving Access to Services for People with Limited English Proficiency” section of the cooperative agreement for NCD’s 2012 Medicaid study. The revised model reads:

The National Council on Disability is committed to ensuring that Recipients and Contractors are provided information regarding the federal requirements under Executive Order (EO) 13166. The EO 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.  This includes cultural and linguistic differences among people with disabilities who need access to various services.  Recipients and Contractors must take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to their programs and activities by people with limited English proficiency.

Strategic Plan Relevance – Under the “Values and Commitment” section, NCD’s statements on Integrity and Accountability read as follows: 

INTEGRITY – NCD will uphold a standard of transparency, honesty, accountability, reliability, and ethical conduct. 

ACOUNTABILITY - NCD will remain responsible stewards of the federal funds entrusted to the agency by engaging in sound financial management practices and fiscal responsibility. 

Agency Commitment

NCD will continue its efforts to comply fully with EO 13166. NCD stands ready to review its LEP plan at least annually, including the provision of opportunity for external stakeholder input that may necessitate revisions.  NCD will apply the guidance developed by DOJ in that agency’s assigned civil rights leadership role to ensure meaningful access to all federal agency services. NCD will collaborate with stakeholders and federal partners addressing the unique needs of people with cultural, language diversity and LEP access needs. NCD will monitor the effectiveness of its LEP outreach and modify this language access plan as needed to ensure meaningful inclusion of all people with disabilities into our society. The changing demographics of the United States and the anticipated affect on increased cultural and language diversity among people with disabilities add to the urgency of addressing language access needs.

1 See: Memo to Federal Agencies Reaffirming the Mandates of Executive Order 13166 from Attorney General Eric Holder – February 17, 2011

2 Responding to needs, on August 11, 2000, President Clinton signed Executive Order 13166 (EO 13166), “Improving Access to Services for Persons with LEP.” The two major initiatives are to: (1) better enforce and implement an existing federal obligation under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including to individuals with LEP. Federal agencies that provide federal financial assistance must develop guidance to clarify those obligations (e.g., applicable to contractors under cooperative agreements with NCD); and (2) meet the same standards as federal financial assistance recipients in providing meaningful language access to federally funded programs and services (similar to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 language). President Obama expressed resolve to address unmet language access needs and requested federal  agencies to recommit by undertaking action in 2009 and 2010. The U.S. Attorney General provided implementation guidance through the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division’s Federal Coordination and Review Section. That office was designated to assist agency plan development as needed and to receive revised plans in 2011. 

3 All NCD reports listed in this report are available at:  

4  National Disability Policy:  A Progress Report – January 2001 (See /progress_reports/Jan2001

5 Limited English Proficiency Plan 2011:National Council on Disability/publications/2011/LEP2011#_ednref2

6 NCD identifies its stakeholders as: all Americans with disabilities; policymakers and decision makers; groups and organizations concerned with people with disabilities; families and support systems; and society at large.

An official website of the National Council on Disability