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Planning for Language Access Services

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One important way to address legal and quality issues of language barriers is to understand the challenges and opportunities that exist in your area and committing to embedding and sustaining language access throughout your agency through a systematic planning process.


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A person with Limited English Proficiency may have difficulty speaking or reading English. An LEP person will benefit from an interpreter who will translate to and from the person’s primary language.

An LEP person may also need documents written in English translated into his or her primary language so that person can understand important documents related to health and human services.



Types of Language Services

Language access services are also commonly referred to as language assistance services and linguistically appropriate services.

LAS are services that are designed to ensure effective communication between individuals who are limited English proficient, individuals who are Deaf, Late Deafened, Hard of Hearing, of DeafBlind, or individuals who may have other communication barriers and their English speaking providers.

Primary LAS include interpretation (oral) and translation (written) services. LAS can also involve provisions that enhance communication, such as assistive technology, tools for low literacy, signage and symbols for wayfinding.

Use this template to make sure your organization is considering all the aspects of language services.

DBHDS Language Access Plan Template

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It is important to think through all the steps in language services.  Where will you place notices announcing that language services are available?  What will you do if individuals refuse interpreter services?  How will your organization choose the right vendor for you?  Below you will find some useful tools that may help with these decisions.

Language barriers in the health care setting can lead to problems such as delay or denial of services, issues with medication management, and underutilization of preventive services (Green et al. 2005).

Research suggests the quality of communication between individuals and providers is strongly associated with providers’ ability to deliver better and safer care for individuals who have LEP (Ponce et al. 2006).

Language services, such as translation and interpretation, can facilitate this communication and thus improve health care quality, the individuals's experience, adherence to recommended care, and ultimately health outcomes (Flores 2005; Jacobs et al. 2006; Karliner et al. 2007).

In a 2010 national study, individuals with LEP described difficulty making appointments, including multiple phone transfers and frequent disconnections. They indicated that the lack of qualified interpreters made them fearful of accessing care and prevented them from seeking the treatment they needed. Additional complaints included difficulties in attaining accurate and timely information related to medication, accessing preventive care and being required to bring their own interpreters.(Diamond, 2010).

Language Access and Mental Health - NAMI Multicultural Action Center