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Hawaii’s Language Access Laws
According to the 2000 U.S. Census, almost 290,000 of Hawai’i’s 1.2 million people, or 24% of Hawaii’s population, speak a language other than English at home; this includes over 250,000 persons who speak an Asian or Pacific Island language. For many, English is not their primary language, and they have only a limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English. Language barriers often prohibit many residents from fully participating in our community and undermine efforts to become self-sufficient and productive.
In 2006, the legislature recognized and acknowledged that language is a barrier for those living in Hawaii who have identified themselves as being limited English proficient (“LEP”). Consequently, the legislature passed Act 290, later codified in sections 371-31 to -37, Hawaii Revised Statutes, to ensure that LEP individuals have equal, meaningful access to state-funded services in Hawaii.
- Applies to state agencies and covered entities that receive state-funding and provide services to the public
- Requirements – Requires state agencies and covered entities to:
- Establish a language access plan; and
- Take reasonable steps to ensure they provide meaningful access to limited English Proficient persons
- Oral Interpretation – Requires reasonable oral language services that are competent and timely
- Written Translation – Requires timely, reasonable translation of vital documents
- Establishes the Office of Language Access to ensure compliance with the law and to provide technical assistance
- Establishes the Language Access Advisory Council to advise on implementation matters
- Tracks Federal Language Access Regulations implementing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 200d et seq., regarding prohibition against national origin discrimination affecting LEP persons.