Language Access

According to the U.S. Census’s 2015 American Community Survey, 15.7% of Chicago’s residents, or about 400,000 individuals, do not speak English as their primary language. In an effort to better deliver services to these Limited English Proficiency (LEP) residents, the Mayor appointed a diverse group of community, legal, and civic leaders in July of 2014 and tasked them with developing a language access policy. This language access policy’s goal was to ensure that immigrants and LEP residents have meaningful access to City services, resources, and programs.

Following months of discussions and a comprehensive review of data and best practice research, the Language Access Advisory Committee developed a set of recommendations for the City to pursue. To read the Advisory Committee’s recommendations, please visit: Recommendations from Chicago’s Language Access Advisory Committee

Outcomes

On May 6, 2015, City Council passed Mayor Emanuel’s Language Access Ordinance based on the Advisory Committee’s recommendations. This ordinance ensures that immigrants can access critical services and information in the most common languages spoken in Chicago. The full text of the ordinance can be found here.

Over the past 3 years, the City’s various Departments have been collecting detailed data about the frequency and types of LEP interactions in order to assist the City’s immigrant and LEP residents more efficiently. City Departments have been utilizing a professional, 24-hour real-time interpretation hotline to ensure that LEP communities have full access to all City functions. Each Department has created a Language Access Policy and Implementation Plan, which outlines the current services provided to the LEP community along with any new staff training or growth plans related to serving LEP persons.

The Office of Emergency Management and Communications recently launched Smart911 to strengthen the effective and timely dispatch of emergency resources. If you or someone you know is a LEP person, you can indicate this on your Smart911 profile. When 911 is called, the call taker can immediately engage the language interpreter in the caller’s preferred language to better assist residents in an emergency. Learn how to sign up here

Next Steps

The individual City Departments are in the process of soliciting community comments on language access efforts to better assess their effectiveness. If you have any feedback or questions about accessing City services in non-English languages, please call 311 or send an email to officeofnewamericans@cityofchicago.org.

Chicago’s Top Languages Spoken

These are the languages other than English spoken by the largest number of Chicago residents, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Spanish

Mandarin

Polish

Arabic

Hindi

Urdu

City Department Language Access Policy and Implementation Plans

To view each Department’s Language Access Policy and Implementation Plan, click on the links below.

Chicago Public Library 

Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection

Chicago Commission on Human Relations 

Chicago Department of Aviation

Department of Family and Support Services

Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities

Chicago Department of Transportation

 

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