Understanding Language Access Rights

Over five million older adults across the country are Limited English Proficient (“LEP”). LEP older adults do not speak English as their primary language or they have a limited ability to speak, read, write, or understand English. Federal law prohibits discrimination based on national origin, including discrimination on the basis of language. The United States Supreme Court in Lau v. Nichols (1974) stated that one type of national origin discrimination is discrimination based on a person’s inability to speak, read, write, or understand English.

These civil rights protections have become well-established through an Executive Order by President Clinton in 2000 and various federal regulations. This Order, entitled “Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency”, directed federal agencies to (a) publish guidance on how their recipients can provide access to LEP persons; (b) improve the language accessibility of their own programs; and (c) break down language barriers by implementing consistent standards of language assistance across federal agencies and amongst all recipients of federal financial assistance.

On February 1, 2019, the Social Security Administration published proposed regulations on removing “inability to communicate in English” as an education category in making disability determinations for people applying for Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income benefits. Under the current rules, proficiency in English is one of the considerations used by the Social Security Administration when making a disability determination for claimants who don’t meet a medical impairment listing. While a limited proficiency in English is not alone sufficient to establish disability, it is currently considered in coordination with other factors, including the skill level of the person’s last job, whether any of those skills could be transferred to a new job, and the physical residual functional capacity of the claimant.

For more than 30 years, Attorney Lee A. Drizin has practiced in the areas of estate planning, probate, trusts, guardianship and real estate matters representing clients throughout the state of Nevada.

Drizin Law is providing this information for educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion as to any specific facts or circumstances. This information is based on general principles of Nevada law at the time it was created and you should be aware laws frequently change. Moreover, the laws affecting you may differ depending on the circumstances. You should consult with a qualified attorney in your own state or jurisdiction concerning your particular situation. Review of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.