Boise government to up language access

The city of Boise, Idaho is currently looking to improve language access, according to local news site BoiseDev. Right now, the municipal government purchases telephone interpreting (OPI) from Monterey, California-based company LanguageLine Solutions. Mayoral covid-19 alerts have been translated into eight languages. The police department works with a network of what BoiseDev calls “translators.” Select utility bill inserts and a mayoral ‘State of the City’ speech are also available in Spanish — but that’s it, the site reports, creating what community engagement director Maria Weeg calls room for improvement: “We’re doing compliance really well,” she told BoiseDev, “We’re doing a good job with the ‘I Speak’ [language identification] cards and translating our documents, but we need to go to the next level and make sure we’re providing information in the languages and ways of communicating our community is asking for.”

More than ten percent of Boise residents do not speak English at home, according to the city’s last US Census. Nearly five percent of residents speak Spanish, 2.2 percent another Indo-European language — numbers Weeg expects to increase when 2020 census results are announced.


At a February city council meeting, the town discussed its plans to grow language access — which leaves room for language services providers (LSP’s) to add Boise as a future client. Translation is already line-itemed in the municipal budget as the city now enters “the planning stages of an evaluation of what services to be offered in what languages,” BoiseDev’s Margaret Carmel reports. Early conversations with public-facing municipal employees indicate Swahili and Farsi translation may be in high demand. The city hopes to improve American Sign Language (ASL) accessibility as well.

Once this needs assessment is complete, the city intends to draw up a resolution outlining recommended language access strategies for Boise’s city council to approve. Purchasing would come after that, with policy updates every three to five years.

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