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Madison's new Language Access Plan outlines steps that will bring more comprehensive, standardized and publicized services to residents who speak limited or no English, or are Deaf or hard of hearing.

With the adoption of the city’s new Language Access Plan, Madison Civil Rights Director Norman Davis said he hopes that no one in the community will be excluded from Madison’s services based on lack of English language skills or disability.

“Language access is all about meaningful access,” Davis said. “Everyone is entitled to accessing services without cost in the same way that anyone speaking in English would.”

The Language Access Plan, written by the Department of Civil Rights, outlines steps that will bring more comprehensive, standardized and publicized services to residents who speak limited or no English, or are deaf or hard of hearing.

Madison’s City Council approved the plan on a voice vote Tuesday. Among those present were interpreters skilled in American Sign Language, Chinese Mandarin, Hmong and Spanish.

“We wanted to make sure this meeting is representative of the kind of meaningful access that we envision with the language access plan,” Davis said.

The $122,000 budget will cover translating vital documents into Hmong, Chinese Mandarin and Spanish and the cost of having ASL, Hmong, Chinese Mandarin and Spanish interpretation available for 450 hours of press conferences and public meetings. It will also fund 54 video translations for city departments.

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"It’s ensuring that our populations can participate fully in government, and no one is excluded," Davis said.   

Ald. Shiva Bidar, District 5, echoed several of the public speakers when she said the plan was “long overdue.”

The four-phase plan includes hiring a full-time Language Access Coordinator and temporary staff. That could eventually turn into a whole division or department that focuses on language or access and inclusion, according to the report.

“Doing this work and doing it well takes somebody to really manage on both a day-to-day basis and a programmatic basis on implementation of language access,” Bidar said. "Having someone to oversee would be really important in the long term.”

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Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.