National COVID-19 Policy Must Ensure Communication Access

logos of the nine national advocacy groups signing May 29 2020 Letter to CongressCommunicationFIRST today joins eight other national organizations that that work with and advocate for Limited English Proficient (LEP) populations, deaf and hard-of-hearing communities, blind persons, and people who cannot rely on speech to be heard and understood, in a letter to Congress urging it to ensure the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic adequately meets the communication and language access needs of these populations.

CommunicationFIRST is pleased to join with the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, First Focus, Justice in Aging, National Health Law Program, National Urban League, and UnidosUS, in elevating with national policymakers the critical need to ensure communication and language access during the pandemic.

Despite the fact that federal civil rights laws, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, and Executive Order 13166, already require language and communication access, our communities are currently experiencing significant barriers to information, testing, treatment, care, and other COVID-19-related services because of a failure to ensure such access.

"The federal government must ensure providers have the resources they need to effectively communicate with LEP families and communities, as well as anyone with a communication-related disability or condition, and deaf, hard of hearing, blind, and deaf-blind communities and families. This includes funding that ensures the availability of language access services, qualified interpreters, communication boards and other augmentative communication tools, or ensuring patients have consistent, ongoing access to people who are trained to support their unique communication modes and needs," the letter advocates.

The letter concludes, "Congress must take action to ensure resources and oversight are available to ensure communication barriers do not inhibit our nation’s ability to end this COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn."

Read the full letter to Congress here.