New Executive Order Addresses Governmental Language Barriers

Belén Dumont

BOSTON—This past year, lawmakers have filed a variety of bills pointing to language barriers among state services, calling for an expansion of non-English language resources for residents with limited English proficiency. 

On September 13—days before the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month—the State House held a celebration where Governor Maura Healey signed Executive Order #615 that looks to address language barriers within the state government and officially declared Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 in Massachusetts.

The order requires executive department agencies to develop Language Access Plans, which will outline strategies for increasing accessibility and equitability across governmental operations, over the next few months. Agencies also need to identify language access coordinators within 30 days. 

“Everyone in Massachusetts, regardless of what language they speak, deserves equitable access to government services and resources, but we recognize that language often poses a major barrier,” Governor Healey said in a statement

One in four residents across Massachusetts speak a language other than English, according to Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll.

“It is essential that we are setting people up for success by ensuring that they are able to read and engage with information provided by their state government,” Driscoll commented. “This Executive Order will help us work to ensure that all residents have the chance to get their questions answered and interact with their government in a way they understand.”

Joined by Latino Advisory Council members, Healey formally signed the proclamation and order during a Latino Empowerment Council Meeting that featured Boston’s Veronica Robles’ all-female mariachi band and diplomatic visits from Consul generals from Mexico, Colombia, and Honduras. Healey’s office released the executive order in Spanish, Portuguese, and English. 

“Government is no good if people can’t use it, if people aren’t able to access it,” Healey said at the event. “And we don’t want a language barrier to be a reason that people aren’t able to get the services or access government in the way that they’re entitled to.”

Publisher’s Note: This story is an aggregate from GBH and 22 News.