Frequently Asked Questions

What is WASCLA?

WASCLA, or the Washington State Coalition for Language Access, is an organization consisting of legal professionals, advocates, law enforcement personnel, interpreters/translators, and court personnel who are dedicated to assisting state and local agencies within the State of Washington to understand and comply with their obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

How was WASCLA created?

The U.S. Department of Justice allocated funds to create a Northwest Regional Six-State Summit in May 2005. The summit brought together state participants from six states to discuss and develop plans to improve access and delivery of services to immigrant victims in their states. Representatives of Washington State identified Limited English Proficiency (LEP) as a justice and social service system barrier that prevents immigrant survivors from accessing available resources. Washington representatives identified an action plan to improve interpreter/translation services for immigrant survivors accessing legal services, medical care, and other community services. Some of the long-term goals for the action plan are to:

• Educate groups about legal requirements to provide interpreters
• Develop quality control standards and requirements for ongoing training
• Secure funding to support interpreter services and training
• Increase the pool of qualified interpreters and develop a centralized database
• Develop a model curriculum for interpretation services and cultural sensitivity training
• Develop a model curriculum for training for service providers

Who is a Limited English Proficient (LEP) individual?

An LEP individual is someone who does not speak English as his or her primary language and who has a limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English. A person may be LEP in one situation and not another. For example, a person may be able to speak English adequately in his or her day-to-day life, but may be an LEP individual when dealing with a medical problem or speaking with police officers.

What does Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 say?

Title VI states that "[n]o person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

What does Title VI require of agencies?

Title VI requires recipients of federal financial assistance to take reasonable steps to provide LEP individuals with meaningful access to their programs and activities. Title VI and its accompanying regulations prohibit recipients from discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin. Courts have determined that discrimination on the basis of national origin can occur if a recipient does not provide appropriate language assistance to LEP individuals because these individuals, whose language is usually tied to their national origin, will not have access to the same benefits, services, information, or rights that the recipient provides to everyone else. In other words, failure to ensure that LEP persons can effectively participate in or benefit from federally assisted programs and activities may violate Title VI as national origin discrimination.

What does Executive Order 13166 say?

Executive Order 13166 was issued by former President Clinton in 2000. First, it requires that all federal agencies take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access for LEP individuals to federally conducted programs and activities. Second, the Order mandates that every federal agency that provides financial assistance to non-federal entities must publish guidance on how those recipients can provide meaningful access to LEP persons and thus comply with Title VI and Title VI regulations. These requirements are designed to improve the enforcement and implementation of existing Title VI obligations.

How do I know if my agency is subject to Title VI?

All federal agencies, as well as any state or local agency that receives any amount of federal financial assistance, is subject to the obligations of Title VI and its regulations. Subrecipients, when federal funds are passed from one recipient to a subrecipient, are also subject to Title VI. Recipients of federal funds range from state and local agencies, to nonprofits, hospitals and other organizations. (Note: A list of the types of recipients and the agencies funding them are available at Executive Order 12250.)

What is "federal financial assistance?"

Federal financial assistance includes grants, training, use of equipment, donations of surplus property, and other assistance.

My agency only receives a small amount of its funding from federal sources. Is it still subject to Title VI?

Yes. Title VI covers a recipient's entire program or activity, even if the recipient only receives a small amount of federal financial assistance. This means all parts of a recipient's operations are covered even where only one part of the recipient's operations is funded by federal assistance.

My agency is covered by a state/local "English only" law. Does it still have to comply with Title VI?

Yes. State and local laws may provide additional obligations to serve LEP individuals, but cannot compel recipients of federal financial assistance to violate Title VI. Entities in States and localities with "English-only" laws are not required to accept federal funding, but once such funding is accepted, that agency must be in full compliance with Title VI.

I understand that Title VI requires all federal agencies and any state or local entity that receives any amount of federal financial assistance to fulfill the obligations of Title VI. What factors should my agency consider when determining what constitutes reasonable steps that the agency must take to ensure meaningful access to LEP individuals?

Agencies should consider the following four factors in providing meaningful access to LEP individuals:

1. The number or proportion of LEP persons in the eligible service population;
2. The frequency with which LEP individuals come into contact with the program;
3. The importance of the benefit, service, information, or encounter to the LEP person (including the consequences of lack of language services or inadequate interpretation/translation); and,
4. The resources available to the recipient and the costs of providing various types of language services.

I have heard that having an "I Speak…" card at the reception desk of our agency is a good starting point. Is this correct?

Yes. An individual who is having difficulty communicating in English is shown the card and that individual points to the language that he or she speaks and reads best. "I Speak" cards are useful because they allow agencies to quickly identify which language an individual person speaks and writes. A free "I Speak" card can be downloaded at

I didn't attend a WASCLA conference. Can I still take part in WASCLA?

Yes. Please send an e-mail to:

Where can I find more information?

More information on Title VI and the obligations that it creates can be found at