The Language Access Ordinance in San Francisco ensures equal access to public services for limited-English speakers. More than 160 languages are spoken in the Bay Area, and more than 40 in San Francisco alone. In 2001, the city enacted an equal access to services ordinance to ensure that residents with limited English proficiency — more than one in five people over the age of five — could access the same level of service as their English-speaking peers. In 2009, the ordinance was amended and became the Language Access Ordinance (LAO), reflecting one of the strongest language access laws in the United States. The LAO requires that major city departments provide sufficient bilingual staff, translate written materials, and post public notices of their availability in Spanish, Chinese, and Tagalog. All city departments are required to inform limited-English speakers of their right to interpretation, in their native language, for any language spoken in San Francisco. With 48 hours of advance request, all public meetings and hearings are required to provide oral interpretation. Learn more.
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