Skip to comments.City Hall Is Said to Support Translations in All Tongues
Posted on 12/12/2003 1:50:14 AM PST by sarcasm
n a reversal, the Bloomberg administration is expected to announce its support today for a law that requires city human services agencies to make all documents available in six languages and to provide translation to clients on demand for all languages.
In theory, such legislation would ask city agencies to tackle the formidable task of providing translation to poor New Yorkers seeking services in as many as 200 non-native dialects, including Tajik, Pashto and Xhosa, a South African language that is made with tongue clicking.
With Mr. Bloomberg's support, passage of the Equal Access to Human Services Act into law is almost inevitable as it enjoys broad support on the City Council. Until quite recently, City Hall, following the lead of the Giuliani administration, had opposed such legislation, saying it was unnecessary and would be prohibitively expensive and cumbersome.
A city official said enough concessions had been won in a month of intense negotiations, some sessions lasting past midnight, to be sure the bill was "significantly less burdensome than when it was originally proposed." The city official said a city representative would make those details clear during testimony in front of the City Council today.
But the primary sponsor of the bill, Councilman John C. Liu, a Democrat of Flushing, said that the City Council agreed to a five-year phase-in of the law, instead of two years, and agreed to six primary languages for document and in-person translation, instead of 22 as originally proposed.
In a move that puzzled some of the bill's advocates, it was the city's Human Resources Administration that insisted that all languages be covered, the advocates and a City Council staff member said. Under the current terms of the bill, city agencies and their contractors that provide human services would have to provide in-person translation only for frequently requested languages like Spanish and Chinese.
But the city would have to provide translation by phone or computer for any language, no matter how obscure, within a reasonable period of time. That period is not specified in the law. The Bloomberg administration is said to believe that online technology and translation services already on contract would make this doable and affordable.
The other agencies affected by the law would be the Departments of Homeless Services and Health and Mental Hygiene and the Administration for Children's Services.
Estimates of the cost vary. Early predictions by the Human Resources Administration, made before the recent negotiations, ran about $30 million a year. By contrast, the City Council has said it expects the change to cost no more than $5 million a year by 2008, when the new standards are fully phased in.
Proponents said the costs, in any case, were negligible compared with the benefits. Human Resources has a huge budget, Mr. Liu said, "but so many feel locked out because their English is not good." He added, "This is an incremental cost, and it is well worth the investment."
He added that the bill would help the city come into compliance with federal civil rights laws, which demand no discrimination based on national origin, and would let the city recoup some of the costs of translation in previously lost federal dollars.
But Mark Hoover, who was first deputy for human resources under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, said the city was setting itself up for potentially much larger costs down the line. "With 200 languages in New York, there is no practical way to implement the law," he said. "it will set up the city stupidly so that it will fail and be sued and have to hire more staff and so on."
Some businesses that contract with the city to provide social services also expressed dismay at the likely passage of the law. Peter Cove, founder of America Works, which contracts to provide job location services to 7,000 city clients a year, said, "It will be a terrible inconvenience, and it may well cost money that we can ill afford."
Andrew Friedman, a co-director of Make the Road by Walking, a advocacy group based in Brooklyn, said that because the law would not phase in for five years, employers would have plenty of time to hire bilingual personnel for the most commonly used second languages. He doubted that there would be much demand for less common languages, but said that the city would honor itself by serving those populations.
My wife was an ASL interpreter for several years. She was paid by the State to assist deaf, mainstreamed students in schools. They paid $25/hour with a four-hour minimum back in 1994/95. She got a hundred bucks for as little as ten-minute's work. If she worked ten minutes here, and an hour there and a half-hour at another place, she was getting the minimum at all three. If she showed up and the client didn't, she got paid.
No mystery that the strongest advocates for the language-disabled are the interpreters and the heads of agencies...who make even more... that provide the services at taxpayer expense. I suspect a little digging here in NY would uncover that same old gang and thier useful idiots. These guys have a lot of clout. They care.
(Qu'vatlh guy'cha b'aka!) Just damn.
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