New York pols pen legislation requiring translations on state agency websites for better COVID-19 info accessibility

FILE PHOTO: A St John’s Ambulance volunteer holds a syringe during a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccinator training course at the Princess Anne Training Centre in Derby
A St John’s Ambulance volunteer holds a syringe during a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccinator training course at the Princess Anne Training Centre in Derby, Britain November 28, 2020.
REUTERS/Lee Smith/File Photo


Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou and Senator Brad Hoylman announced new legislation this week requiring translation for non-English speakers on state agency websites.

The bill and its requirements will improve the accessibility of COVID-19 information for minority communities including new immigrants who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Within 30 days, state agencies must provide translation services into the 12 most common non-English languages spoken by New Yorkers for all COVID-19 information websites. All other websites must provide translations for non-Coronavirus information within 90 days.

In a statement about the new legislation Niou said, “As the pandemic continues, it is vital that all New Yorkers have the same information and equitable access to COVID-19 updates and essential human services.” She continued, “New Yorkers are going through the worst economic and health pandemic in a century. It is essential that we promote equity and provide culturally sensitive, language accessible information and services in our online resources and information … Through this bill, New Yorkers will be able to access stabilizing human services that are potentially life-saving.”

Over 5.6 million New Yorkers reside in households where English isn’t the primary language. These individuals have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as they have lacked access to vital information due to the language barrier. Information such as where and how to apply for unemployment insurance, the locations of food distribution centers, where to receive life-saving services and more have been largely inaccessible for non-English speakers. This legislation announced by Niou and Hoylman will improve the accessibility of state agency websites to minority communities especially non-English speakers.

Senator Hoylman commented on the legislation and said, “More than five million New Yorkers live in households where the primary language isn’t English. That’s why we can’t let language be a barrier to life-saving information, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic.” He continued, “Our state government should speak the language of New Yorkers so they can make vaccine appointments, apply for unemployment insurance, negotiate housing information and have access to other vital services provided by the State. I’m proud to partner with Assembly Member Niou on this important new legislation that will make it easier for millions of our neighbors to benefit from New York’s social safety net.”