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DOT's LEP Guidance

In accordance with the Executive Order, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued Policy Guidance Concerning Recipient's Responsibilities to Limited English Proficient (LEP) Persons, which is modeled after DOJ’s guidance. As described in the guidance, DOT recipients are required to take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to their programs and activities by LEP persons. The guidance applies to all DOT funding recipients, which include state departments of transportation, state motor vehicle administrations, airport operators, metropolitan planning organizations, and regional, state, and local transit operators, among many others. Coverage extends to a recipient’s entire program or activity, i.e., to all parts of a recipient’s operations. This is true even if only one part of the recipient receives the Federal assistance. For example, if DOT provides assistance to a state department of transportation to rehabilitate a particular highway on the National Highway System, all of the operations of the entire state department of transportation—not just the particular highway program or project—are covered by the DOT guidance.

The DOT guidance outlines four factors recipients should apply to the various kinds of contacts they have with the public to assess language needs and decide what reasonable steps they should take to ensure meaningful access for LEP persons:

  1. The number or proportion of LEP persons eligible to be served or likely to be encountered by a program, activity, or service of the recipient or grantee.
  2. The frequency with which LEP individuals come in contact with the program.
  3. The nature and importance of the program, activity, or service provided by the recipient to people’s lives.
  4. The resources available to the recipient and costs.

The greater the number or proportion of eligible LEP persons; the greater the frequency with which they have contact with a program, activity, or service; and the greater the importance of that program, activity, or service, the more likely enhanced language services will be needed. Smaller recipients with more limited budgets are typically not expected to provide the same level of language service as larger recipients with larger budgets. The intent of DOT’s guidance is to suggest a balance that ensures meaningful access by LEP persons to critical services while not imposing undue burdens on small organizations and local governments.

After completing the above four-factor analysis, recipients can determine the appropriate “mix” of LEP services required. Recipients have two main ways to provide language services: oral interpretation either in person or via telephone interpretation service and written translation. The correct mix should be based on what is both necessary and reasonable in light of the four-factor analysis. For instance, a motor vehicle department or an emergency hazardous material cleanup team in a largely Hispanic neighborhood may need immediate oral interpreters available and decide to hire full-time bilingual staff. In contrast, there may be circumstances where the importance and nature of the activity and number or proportion and frequency of contact with LEP persons may be low and the costs and resources needed to provide language services may be high in which pre-arranged language services for the particular service may not be necessary. The languages spoken by the LEP individuals with whom the recipient has frequent contact often determine the languages into which documents will be translated and the types of interpreters provided.

More detail on the points discussed above and information on other considerations are found in the DOT LEP guidance.