Maryland Language Access Law: Your right to interpretation and translation
Topics on this page
- State Agencies
- Interpretation Services
- Translation Services
- State agencies required to provide Interpretation and Translation Services
Maryland law requires many of the Maryland state government agencies and programs to help you if you have trouble with English. The law covers many (but not all) agencies. The law covers many (but not all) languages. The law requires the agency to provide a free interpreter to help you speak with agency staff. The law also requires the agency to translate certain important document into your language.
Read the Law: Md. Code, State Government § 10-1103
Nothing in this article applies to sign language interpreters, which are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Most agencies of the Maryland state government are required to provide a free interpreter for many languages. An interpreter will be a specially trained expert who can speak in your language and in English.
When must state agencies provide you with an interpreter?
If you have trouble speaking or understanding English and you need a service from an agency, most agencies of the Maryland government must provide "oral language services." This means that the agency will provide an interpreter when you visit the agency's office. It also means that the agency will hire an interpreter who will be on the phone when you call for services. You are eligible for this type of help if all of the following are true.
- The law requiring interpretation covers the state agency or program. See below for a list of agencies that are covered by the law.
- There are many requests for help from people who also speak your language. The only way you will know if your language is covered is to make a request.
- You are unable to understand spoken or written English, or you are unable to speak or write English.
How will interpretation be provided?
There are many ways an agency can provide an interpreter. The choice of how the agency will handle your request is made by the agency. The agency may offer a staff interpreter, a bilingual staff person, use a special telephone interpretation service, or hire an interpreter from a private interpretation program.
Most of the agencies of the Maryland state government are required to translate vital documents into many languages.
When must state agencies provide you with translation?
First, you must be in need of services from one of the state agencies required by the law to translate certain documents.
Second, the documents produced by the state agency will be translated into your language if your language is spoken by 3% or more of the population served by the agency. Generally, this includes Spanish, Chinese, and Korean. Ask for translation services, even if you speak another language.
For example, you need help from the Office of the Attorney General. If your language is spoken by at least 3% the population that requests services from Office of the Attorney General, the agency is required to translate vital documents.
Will all Maryland government documents be translated?
No. A document will only be translated if all three of the following statements are true.
- The state agency or program is required by law to translate documents.
- There are many requests for help from other people who speak your language. The only way you will know if your language is covered is to make a request.
- The document is a vital document." Vital documents usually includes applications for benefits or services, informational materials, notices and complaint forms that the agency or program provides.
Must a government agency translate their website?
The law does not specifically discuss websites. However, the law does require that vital documents be translated. If those vital documents are also posted on the website, there is a good chance that the translations are posted as well as the English versions. Look at the state agencies and programs listed below. If a state website includes your language, most likely you will see a link to that information at the bottom of the ageny's website.
State agencies required to provide Interpretation and Translation Services
The following agencies and programs are required by law to provide interpretation and translation services. Even if the agency or program is not listed below, it is still important to ask for an interpreter. Your request will help the agency understand the need for an interpreter program. Additionally, the agency may be able to find an interpreter for you. However, there is no guarantee.
- Department of Human Services
- Department of Labor
- Department of Health
- Department of Juvenile Services
- The Worker's Compensation Commission
- Department of Aging
- Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services
- Department of Transportation
- Maryland Commission on Civil Rights
- Department of State Police
- Comptroller of Maryland
- Department of Housing and Community Development
- Maryland Transit Administration
- Department of Natural Resources
- Department of Education
- Office of the Attorney General
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Commerce
- Department of Veterans Affairs
- Department of the Environment
Does this law apply to the Maryland Courts too?
No. Maryland courts have a special rule that requires a spoken-language interpreter if you have trouble with English. You can request an interpreter by contacting your court directly. You can go in person, call the court clerk or (if you have an attorney) ask your attorney to request an interpreter. You should do so as soon as you can because you are required to apply 30 days -or more - before the proceeding. The court will appoint a spoken language interpreter if:
- you do not understand English well enough to participate fully in the proceedings and to assist counsel, or
- you do not speak English well enough to be understood by counsel, the court, and the jury.
Accommodations from the Maryland Courts
Need a Court Interpreter? Part 1: How to Request an Interpreter from the Maryland Courts
Need an ASL Interpreter? Part One: How to Request an ASL Interpreter from the Maryland Courts
More information on translation services can be found on the Maryland Courts website:
Although a few court staff may speak your language, each staff person can call a special telephone service that will provide an interpreter in your language. This interpreter will help you make your request to the court clerk. When you go to court, another interpreter will be present in person.
Spoken-language interpreters are available for depositions to the same extent as for court proceedings.
Need a Court Interpreter? Part 2: How to Work with an Interpreter from the Maryland Courts
Need an ASL Interpreter? Part Two: How to Work with Your ASL Interpreter from the Maryland Courts
Read the Rules: MD Rule 1-333 and Md. Rule 2-415