By Carolyn W. Colvin
WASHINGTON (May 21, 2012) — As Deputy Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, I am proud to be part of an agency that touches the lives of almost every American throughout the lifespan. For many, we represent the “face of government,” and we take this responsibility very seriously.
We recently sponsored a roundtable in collaboration with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). Many national advocates attended, including representatives from the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans and other key AAPI organizations.
We discussed the critical role that Social Security plays in the economic well-being of AAPIs, and we also explored issues related to service access. In particular, we reviewed some of the unique communication challenges that AAPIs, who speak over one hundred languages and dialects, face when trying to utilize government services.
The Social Security Administration has a number of language access tools that are designed to address this issue and improve service delivery to those who are limited English proficient (LEP). For example, we provide Telephone Interpreter Services to LEP individuals, and four of the top five languages requested are AAPI languages. We also offer public information materials in fifteen different languages on our online Multilanguage Gateway, including Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. These tools, coupled with our other language resources, help AAPIs who are LEP overcome some of the language barriers they may experience. At the roundtable, we explored areas for enhancement, as well as possibilities for improved outreach and education.
I enjoyed hearing the specific concerns of the AAPI community, and I look forward to continuing our dialogue. Ensuring access to our services is core to our mission, and through community engagement on these issues, we can more efficiently and effectively achieve our goals.
Carolyn W. Colvin is Deputy Commissioner of the Social Security Administration.