Individual Rights to an Interpreter

Office for Civil Rights Policy Guidance

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against national origin as it affects people with Limited English Proficiency (LEP). To inform clients of their right and recipient agencies of federal funding of their responsibilities, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice issued two brochures. Links to both brochures are included below. Please share these with staff and clients.

Affirming LEP Access and Compliance in Federal and Federally Assisted Programs

Know your rights: Are You Limited English Proficient?

Hospital-Based Interpreter Services

"You Have the Right to an Interpreter" Campaign

This public awareness campaign promotes medical interpreter use among Limited English Proficient (LEP) individuals seeking emergency medical care. The centerpiece of the campaign is a public service announcement relating the story of a patient who does not seek emergency care for her injury, due to an inability to speak English. This common scenario was chosen as an informational tool informing the public of the legal requirements of Massachusetts hospital emergency departments in the provision of medical interpreter services to individuals requiring language access services.

Listen to audio file (right click to download and save)

Read English transcript (Word) doc format of interpreter-psa-text-en.doc

About the recording

The music for this recording was composed by Gabriel Medina, graduate of Berklee College of Music. The voices are a collection of multilingual DPH employees, community members, and professional voice talents.

DPH Interpreter Services Poster

In accordance with 105 CMR 130.1100 et Seq. the following information will assist hospitals in implementing the regulations and in developing their interpreter services programs. The effective date of the regulations is July 20, 2001.

The signage translates "You have the right to a medical interpreter at no cost to you. Please point to the language and wait ." into 30 different languages. Massachusetts hospitals will receive the final poster in Fall 2001.

There are 2 final versions of the Interpreter Services Poster. As you know, since July 2001, it is a requirement that this sign appear in all hospitals. Previously, you have been sent electronic copies of this poster. Please disregard those and use these final versions.

Interpreter Services Poster: These posters explain an individual's right to an interpreter services in multiple languages.

Both posters are 17" x 22" in size but will print out at 8.5" X 11" if you have Acrobat 5. Translation-Hori is horizontal and Translation-Vert is vertical. If you do not have Acrobat 5 and have trouble printing an 8.5" x 11" poster, make sure when you print that you checked fit on page, otherwise you may get only part of the poster.

The 8.5 x 11 size is helpful in a variety of ways. Direct care staff in both inpatient and outpatient settings can have it readily available to identify the language spoken by a non-English speaking patient. Receptionists can have a copy at their stations to help a patient more easily identify the language for interpretation. Finally, displaying the poster in multiple areas of inpatient and outpatient settings may help create a more welcoming environment for non-English speaking patients.


Bureau of Substance Abuse Services Interpreter Services

Guidelines for Accessing Interpreter Services

The Office of Public Health Strategy and Communications coordinates interpreter services for the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services (BSAS).  If an interpreter is needed, programs can complete the form below in order for BSAS to process the request.  Any questions can be directed to


  • At the time of the visit, the interpreter completes the Interpreter Service Description Form and obtains direct staff signature and client information.

Interpreter Service Description Form (PDF) pdf format of bsas-interpreter-service-descrip-form.pdf
doc format of                             bsas-interpreter-service-descrip-form.doc

Quality Assurance

CIS will send a Performance Survey, a satisfaction survey, to the provider.

  • Provider fills out survey after working with the interpreter and submits it to CIS.

Performance Survey (PDF) pdf format of bsas-performance-survey.pdf
doc format of                             bsas-performance-survey.doc


Interpreter Services in Massachusetts Acute Care Hospitals

In November 2008, the Office of Health Equity (OHE) of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) published its first annual report of hospital interpreter services (HIS) in the 72 acute care hospitals. The findings point out that the Commonwealth provides high-volume, high-diversity of interpreter services. 1,202,031 sessions were completed by 2,256 trained interpreters during Fiscal Year 2007 (FY07)-80% were face-to-face contacts, 20% were via telephonic, and 15% were in Emergency Department with large seasonal volume shift in areas of LEP worker migration. The top ten languages include: Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Cape Verdean, Vietnamese, Arabic, American Sign Language (ASL), and Albanian.


Guide to Language Needs Assessments

The Department of Public Health is pleased to present this tool as a support to hospital based Interpreter Services when conducting the required Language Needs Assessment. This manual addresses the LNA process and content and provides a standardized format as hospitals assess their need for interpreter services, identify emerging languages, and develop strategies for outreach to the institution's respective service communities.



This information is provided by the Office of Health Equity within the Department of Public Health.