Suffolk County, NY
 
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Suffolk County Legislature as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Emergency services — See Ch. 436.
Emergency medical services — See Ch. 928.
Emergency preparedness — See Ch. 931.
[Adopted 4-24-2018 by L.L. No. 16-2018]
This Legislature hereby finds and determines that the County of Suffolk is linguistically diverse, with 20% of its residents, aged five and older, speaking a language other than English at home and 10% having limited English proficiency. This Legislature also finds and determines that language can be a substantial barrier for residents, including English language learners (ELLs), seeking to access government information, programs and services. This Legislature finds that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits agencies receiving federal funds from discriminating against persons on the basis of race, color or national origin. This Legislature determines that Presidential Executive Order 13166 (August 11, 2000) requires federally funded agencies to take action to ensure that individuals with limited English proficiency have access to programs and services. This Legislature further determines that in 2012, the County Executive by executive order established a language access policy. This policy should be codified into law to ensure that County residents have language access to programs and services on a permanent, ongoing basis. This Legislature concludes that it is in the best interest of all County residents to ensure and improve language access to County programs and services. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to establish a permanent policy on language access for Suffolk County.
As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
COUNTY AGENCY
Any agency, department, division or office of Suffolk County government which provides programs and/or services to the public.
DIRECT PUBLIC SERVICES
Services administered by an agency directly to program beneficiaries and/or participants.
VITAL DOCUMENTS
Those documents most commonly distributed to the public that contain or elicit important and necessary information regarding the provision of basic County services.
A. 
Any County agency that provides direct public services shall, in all relevant programs and services, competently translate vital documents, including, but not limited to, forms and instructions provided to or completed by program participants and beneficiaries, into the six most common non-English languages spoken by individuals with limited English proficiency in the County, based on United States census data, and relevant to services offered by the agency. "Competent translation" shall mean a trans-language rendition of a written message in which the translator comprehends the source language and can write comprehensively in the target language to convey the meaning intended in the source language. Online translation tools shall not be used for translating documents.
B. 
Each County agency, in all relevant programs and services, shall provide competent interpretation services between the agency and an individual in his or her primary language with respect to the provision of services or benefits. "Competent interpretation shall mean a trans-language rendition of a spoken message in which the interpreter comprehends the source language and can speak comprehensively in the target language to convey the meaning intended in the source language. The interpreter shall know relevant terminology and provide accurate interpretations by choosing equivalent expressions that convey the best matching and meaning to the source language and capture, to the greatest extent possible, all nuances intended in the source material.
C. 
Every County agency shall publish a language access plan that will reflect how the agency will comply with this article. Such plan shall be issued within 60 days of the effective date of this article and be updated biannually. County agencies will file their language access plans with the Clerk of the County Legislature, who shall provide copies to each member of the Legislature. Each language access plan shall set forth, at a minimum, the following:
(1) 
When and by what means the agency will provide, or is already providing, language assistance services and how such services will be provided to hearing- and vision-impaired residents.
(2) 
The titles of all available translated documents and the languages into which they have been translated.
(3) 
The number of public contact positions in the agency and the number of fully bilingual employees in public contact positions and the languages they speak.
(4) 
A uniform training plan for agency employees, including annual training on the language access policies and the provision of language assistance services as well as providing a procedure that allows employees to report issues and problems implementing the language access plan.
(5) 
A plan for biannual internal monitoring of the agency's compliance with language access policies. This plan shall include feedback from the public, community groups and other stakeholders.
(6) 
A plan of how the agency intends to notify the population of offered language assistance services.
(7) 
A language access coordinator at the agency, who shall be publicly identified. The language access coordinator shall monitor the agency's compliance with this article by biannually collecting data on the provision of language assistance services, the availability of translated materials, whether signage is properly posted, and any other relevant matters.
D. 
The language access coordinators shall meet on a regular basis and annually submit a written report to the County Legislature describing the actions taken by their agencies in the preceding year to implement their language access plans. This report will be submitted to the Legislature no later than April 15 each year, beginning in 2020.
E. 
Use of language services shall not be deemed by any County employee as a basis for inquiring into information related to an individual's immigration status or other personal attributes. No County employee shall inquire about or disclose confidential information, including, but not limited to, immigration status, unless such inquiry or disclosure is required by law.
This article shall apply to actions taken by County agencies occurring on or after the effective date of this article.
If any clause, sentence, paragraph, subdivision, section, or part of this article or the application thereof to any person, individual, corporation, firm, partnership, entity, or circumstance shall be adjudged by any court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid or unconstitutional, such order or judgment shall not affect, impair, or invalidate the remainder thereof, but shall be confined in its operation to the clause, sentence, paragraph, subdivision, section, or part of this article, or in its application to the person, individual, corporation, firm, partnership, entity, or circumstance directly involved in the controversy in which such order or judgment shall be rendered.
This article shall take effect January 1, 2019.
[Adopted 9-5-2018 by L.L. No. 22-2018]
This Legislature hereby finds and determines that there are over 48 million Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing. This Legislature also finds and determines that individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing are especially vulnerable when natural disasters and public emergencies arise. This Legislature further finds and determines that one of the many difficulties the deaf and hard of hearing face during times of emergency is the inability to obtain essential, potentially life-saving information from government agencies responsible for emergency management. This Legislature finds that municipalities like Suffolk County are responsible for natural disaster and emergency response, including providing timely updates and important information to all County residents to ensure maximum preparedness and safety before, during and after the emergency event. This Legislature determines that, in order to ensure that the messages being provided by the County are available to the largest number of residents possible, American Sign Language interpreters should be utilized at all press conferences during natural disasters and emergencies. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to require that American Sign Language interpreters be present at all County press conferences held in relation to natural disasters and other emergency circumstances.
As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
COMMISSIONER
The Commissioner of the Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services.
DISASTER
As defined in New York State Executive Law § 20(2).
EMERGENCY SITUATION
Any disaster, rioting, catastrophe, severe weather, flooding or similar event, regardless of whether a state of emergency has been officially declared by the state or any local government.
EMERGENCY SITUATION PRESS CONFERENCE
A press conference relating to or involving planning for, or responding to, an emergency situation.
PRESS CONFERENCE
A meeting organized by a County official, employee or other representative of the County of Suffolk which has one or more journalists and other representatives of the media present for the purpose of officially distributing information to the media and the public and to answer questions.
QUALIFIED AND CERTIFIED AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETER
An interpreter fluent in American Sign Language who meets the requirements set forth in New York State Judiciary Law § 390.
A. 
It shall be the responsibility of the Commissioner to ensure that qualified and certified American Sign Language interpreters are available to provide sign language interpretation services at all emergency situation press conferences. Such interpreters shall be present and provide such services at each emergency situation press conference held by any officer, official, employee or agent of the County. To the greatest extent possible, the Commissioner shall ensure that the sign language interpreter shall be physically positioned in a manner that his or her face, body, arms and hands are visible in the video transmission of the press conference at all times.
B. 
The Commissioner shall establish protocols for securing the services of qualified and certified American Sign Language interpreters at all emergency situation press conferences.
This law shall apply to all emergency situation press conferences occurring on or after the effective date of this article.
If any clause, sentence, paragraph, subdivision, section, or part of this article or the application thereof to any person, individual, corporation, firm, partnership, entity, or circumstance shall be adjudged by any court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid or unconstitutional, such order or judgment shall not affect, impair, or invalidate the remainder thereof, but shall be confined in its operation to the clause, sentence, paragraph, subdivision, section, or part of this article, or in its application to the person, individual, corporation, firm, partnership, entity, or circumstance directly involved in the controversy in which such order or judgment shall be rendered.
This article shall take effect 120 days following its filing in the Office of the Secretary of State.