Legal Service Providers lay out Language Justice Landscape Amid COVID-19

September 28, 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated language justice barriers in health care, access to vital benefits and access to legal support. A ProPublica investigation found that at the height of New York’s COVID-19 outbreak, non-English speakers were getting delayed and worse care. On Wednesday, June 3, 2020 the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division hosted a webinar about “Language Justice During COVID-19,” in which language access experts explained how this disaster has heightened language access problems and how state and local governments, courts, and legal service providers should respond to the current crisis and work towards a just recovery.

We can learn a lot about key language access barriers from past natural disasters, according to Jeanne Ortiz-Ortizthe Pro Bono & Strategic Initiatives Manager at Pro Bono Net. Disasters already provide unique legal challenges in housing, employment, family law and other issues. Language barriers make these problems so much harder to solve and keep people who are not proficient in English from getting the resources they need. Key problems in disaster response range from English-only alerts, signage and warnings to government agencies sending disaster survivors determination letters in English only.

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