I got this in the inbox today and I must say that this will do a lot to make services more accessible to Houston’s diverse communities, especially in my part of town, where I’m pretty sure that those who speak what will be the five targeted languages live in the four-block area around my condo complex.
Here’s the Mayor’s plan (emphasis mine):
Houston Mayor Annise Parker today signed an Executive Order (EO) establishing a policy to improve the delivery of services to Houston’s diverse population. EO No. 1-17 addresses the language barriers that many Houston residents face in accessing essential public information and services in the areas of public safety, health services and economic development.
“Whether it is to help plan for a hurricane or ways to reduce the possibility of becoming a crime victim, all Houstonians should have access to vital information that the City provides,” said Mayor Parker. “This executive order will bridge the access gap by making it easier for residents with limited English proficiency to obtain essential public information and services.”
Over the next 60 days, all departments that provide essential services directly to the public will designate a language access coordinator charged with overseeing the development of a language access implementation plan. City departments are to complete their respective implementation plans within six months. The Office of International Communities (OIC), a division of the Department of Neighborhoods, will oversee and coordinate the planning process.
The language access order calls for the translation of essential public information into five languages other than English for which there is the greatest need among Houston residents. OIC will conduct a data-driven language needs assessment, working closely with City departments, international community leaders and stakeholders and university-based experts to identify the five languages that will be adopted into the plan. OIC will assist city departments in the provision of language access services to the public.
The language access executive order is aligned with Mayor Parker’s commitment to strengthening the city’s economy and improving the quality of life for all Houstonians.
“We are the most diverse city in the country,” said Parker. “That means we are a community of many languages. This executive order challenges us to better serve our constituency, our global business community and visitors. It’s a step toward making Houston one of the most inclusive cities in the world.”