Language Access Guide

A sign that has the word "Welcome" on it in different languages. Words to the right of the sign say, "Language Access". The background color of the entire image is a light blue.

Welcome to the Language Access Guide!

We have put this collection of ideas, tools*, and resources together to offer a central starting point from which to build your Language Access work. Whether you’re just starting to think about Language Access, or you’re a seasoned expert, we hope that this guide can be a resource to you.

*While MAPC may use apps and tools mentioned in the Language Access Guide, references to their uses are not endorsements of the products.

What is Language Access?

Language is fundamental to our connection with one another. Communication is key to taking part in society and in public processes. Language Access at its core is working with the person across from you to understand each other. 

Language Access is the practice of designing public process, services and communication that:  

  • Are offered in plain language; 
  • Include multiple languages (translation, interpretation or in-language facilitation, multiple modes of access etc.); 
  • Meet people's access needs (closed captions, sign language interpretation, etc.); 
  • Honor and celebrate people's cultures. 

MAPC defines Language Access within a Language Justice Framework.  

We consider Language Justice to mean:  

  • Every person can meaningfully take part in all aspects of daily life.  
  • Our systems and processes consistently adapt to people's needs.  
  • Every person can not only act but lead in their community in the language and format that works best for them.

We recognize that Language Access is constantly evolving. The information in this guide is by no means finite, and we always welcome additional input. We are also hoping this can be a living document that grows as we continue to learn about Language Access! To share about work that you are doing on language access, your challenges, successes or tools, reach out to Sasha Parodi (sparodi@mapc.org) or Najee Nunnally (nnunnally@mapc.org).  

We see this guide as a reference for various practices, strategies or considerations within Language Access. It is not meant to be directive, but rather an offering of prompts and tools to support you in establishing your Language Access practices. We encourage you to collaborate with folks in your community and in the region who are doing this work.

Design Credit: David McDonald, MAPC

Stay in the Know

Subscribe to MAPC's Language Access email list to say updated on tools, resources, and much more.

To connect with other municipal Language Access practitioners and/or participate in ongoing discussions about Language Access, join the MA Municipal Language Access Network. This Network meets monthly to discuss language access questions, learn from each other and work through challenges together.

Looking to discuss Language Access in your community? MAPC’s Community Engagement Team is available to connect with you to discuss how you can bring Language Access to your community. You can reach out to us at communityengagement@mapc.org.

This project would not have been possible without the collaboration of the following project partners:  

The seal of the Town of Arlington.

Town of Arlington:

Jillian Harvey
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Director

Teresa Marzilli
Community Outreach & Engagement Coordinator

The seal of the City of Beverly.

City of Beverly:  

Joscelyn Ruelle-Kersker
Chief of Staff to Mayor Cahill

Wangari Fahari
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Director

The seal of the Town of Milton.

Town of Milton:  

Caroline Kinsella
Health Director 

Karolyn Ho
Health Agent

The seal of the Town of Randolph.

Town of Randolph

Michelle Tyler
Planning Director 

The Blue Hills Communiy Health Alliance logo in blue.

Blue Hills Community Health Alliance: 

Ashley Stockwell
Program Director

Language Access Glossary

In addition to the Language Access Guide, we’ve also put together a Language Access Glossary, which includes a collection of commonly used phrases and words in the following languages:  

  • Spanish 
  • Haitian Creole  
  • Arabic 
  • Brazilian Portuguese 
  • Simplified Chinese 
  • Vietnamese 

We hope that this can be a tool to support you in your translation procurement. This resource should be used to advance current language access (translations) on current and future projects. By having this resource, we hope that you can spend budget to expand your services.

If you would like to add terms to this Glossary, please email Najee Nunnally (nnunnally@mapc.org) and Sasha Parodi (sparodi@mapc.org).

Launch of the Language Access Guide

On Wednesday, February 28, 2024, MAPC hosted a virtual launch event to introduce the Language Access Guide for Municipalities to the public. You can watch the event in its entirety in the video to the left.

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this event!

Funding for this Project

The Language Access project and work is funded by the Blue Hills Community Health Alliance, the District Local Technical Assistance (DLTA) program, and the Planning for MetroCommon 2050 Technical Assistance (PMTA) program.