The Online Resource for Massachusetts Poverty Law Advocates

Building Bridges through Language Access Advocacy and Collaboration

04/04/2014 - 9:30am to 4:00pm
UMASS Medical School, 55 North Lake Avenue, Worcester, MA
Event type: 

All materials for the Building Bridges through Language Access conference are posted at this link.

Workshop descriptions and confirmed speakers are available in the attached conference agenda. To register by mail, fill out the form on the back of the attached conference brochure. If you have any questions, please contact Moriah Nelson, or 617-423-0648x138.

Conference Description:

Every day in Massachusetts limited English proficient (LEP) individuals face countless barriers when navigating the legal system and accessing needed public services.  This conference seeks to raise awareness about the need for language access in our communities, provide tools and resources to meet the needs of these communities and build collaboration to eliminate barriers and promote change.  This conference is for advocates from community based organizations, legal services and civil rights organizations.  Speakers will highlight the current state of language access in Massachusetts in a variety of forums, language access legal obligations and much more.  We hope to provide the necessary tools and resources for participants to leave this conference ready and equipped to further language access in their work.


The Language Access Coalition seeks to protect the right of all members of our community to access justice and public services regardless of one’s ability to read, write, speak or understand English. We are a group of Massachusetts advocates working to increase and improve language access in the courts, government agencies and our own organizations.  We identify and work to remove systemic barriers facing limited English proficient individuals, through collaboration and advocacy.

Conference Agenda:

Registration and Light Breakfast (9:30-10:00am)
Greeting and Opening Remarks (10-10:10am)
State of Affairs in MA (10:10am-11:15am):

This plenary session will provide an overview of language access efforts and initiatives in various sectors across the state. Presenters:Samuel Louis, Department of Public Health; Ronald Marlow, Office of Access and Opportunity; Edgar Moros, Office of Court Interpreter Services, Trial Court; Moriah Nelson, Language Access Coalition; Diane Randolph, Office of Refugees and Immigrants (moderator), Susan Schlotterbeck, Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center.

Workshops I (11:25am-12:45pm)

Promoting and Protecting Equal Access to Public Housing for LEP Communities: Presenters will address protections for LEP individuals in public housing and enforcement of civil rights laws. Attendees will learn about available resources, troubleshoot problem situations and discuss advocacy strategies to promote systemic change in accessibility to housing authorities and programs.  Presenters: Salomon Chiquiar-Rabinovich, Housing and Urban Development; Fay Rachlin, Community Legal Aid (moderator); and Sandy Yeung, Asian Outreach Unit, GBLS.

Advocacy Strategies to Help Your LEP Clients Navigate Public Benefits: Advocates will discuss the filing of local and national complaints to address barriers LEP clients face when accessing SNAP (food stamps), cash assistance, and other vital public benefits. Presenters will address common problems, such as lack of translated notices and use of unqualified interpreters, and discuss strategies to help LEP clients successfully access these services. Presenters: Steven Brown, American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island; Naomi Meyer, Greater Boston Legal Services; and Chloe Noonan, BU Law Student, LAC Intern (moderator).

Addressing Health Disparities in LEP Communities through Language Access: Panelist will address LEP issues that arise when LEP individuals seek access to health care, including pharmacy and behavioral health services, Medicaid coverage, and other community services. Hear about efforts that advocates are making to increase equity and accessibility to health care for LEP communities. Presenters: Shena Elrington, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest; Rachel Gershon, University of Massachusetts Medical School; Medha Makhlouf, Central West Justice Center; Lisa Morris, Mass Area Health Education Center; and Valerie Zolezzi-Wyndham, Community Legal Aid (moderator).

Collaborative Efforts Can Increase Language Access in Family Law and Abuse Prevention Order Cases: Presenters will highlight national and local collaborative efforts to increase access to courts for survivors of domestic violence, members of diverse linguistic and cultural communities, people with low-literacy and unrepresented litigants.  The goal of this workshop is to provide tools and inspire attendees to develop collaborative efforts to increase access to courts in their own regions.  Presenters: Wendy Lau, Asian Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence; Caroline Robinson,; Katia Santiago-Taylor, Greater Boston Rape Crisis Center; Ellen Wilbur, Community Legal Services and Counseling Center; Jeff Wolf, and CLSACC (moderator); and Ester Serra Luque, Transition House.

Lunch and Networking (12:45-1:30pm)
Workshops II (1:30-2:50pm)

Language Access on a Shoestring Budget: Making Your Program Accessible: Learn innovative ways of making your program culturally and linguistically accessible for LEP clients. Identify access barriers, technology tools, resources for training and strategies for prioritizing and implementing meaningful access to your services on a limited budget. Presenters: Moriah Nelson, Language Access Coalition; Rodrigo Monterrey, Department of Public Health; and Diane Randolph, Office of Refugees and Immigrants.

Beyond Interpretation: Cultural Awareness when Working with LEP Populations: This interactive workshop will explore the cultural issues that arise when working with individuals from diverse linguistic communities. Participants will identify biases, address cultural miscommunications that create communication challenges, and develop multicultural awareness to build trust and better communicate with LEP clients. Preseneters: Gwendolyn Hampton-VanSant and others, MultiCultural Bridge

Thriving in the Workplace as an Immigrant, Refugee or Person with Limited English Proficiency: Presenters from a variety of organizations will discuss their work with immigrant and refugee communities. Participants will hear from programs that are encouraging active participation of workers in securing safe and equitable employment and providing opportunities to achieve economic self-sufficiency through job training and entrepreneurship. Presenters: Thomas Smith, Justice at Work; Lisa Brennan, Lutheran Social Services; Claudia Green, English for New Bostonians; Maria Vertkin, Found in Translation.

Understanding Interpreter Role and Working with an Interpreter in a Variety of Settings: In this interactive session, presenters will discuss the role of interpreters in court, medical and community settings. Participants will develop strategies to communicate with LEP clients using telephone and in-person interpreters and troubleshoot problematic situations that can create a breakdown in communication when using an interpreter.  Presenters: Leonor Figueroa-Feher, Office of Court Interpreter Services; Lisa Morris, Mass Area Health Education Center; and TBD.


Building Community Collaborations (3-4pm):

This plenary session will highlight collaborative efforts between legal services and community based organizations to meet the needs of LEP communities in a culturally and linguistically accessible way. Presenters: Cynthia Mark, Asian Outreach Unit, GBLS; Karen Chen, Chinese Progressive Association; Cheryl Kesher, Empire Justice Center; and Martha Maffei, SEPA Mujer.




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