Equal access to services policies
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Project:Asian American Public Policy
by students at the University of Maryland.
Articles are under construction until late May, so please refrain from editing until then.
In the United States, there has been and continues to be an uneven distribution of access to services to certain groups. These groups include those with disabilities, immigrant communities, LGBTQ communities, urban communities, and other disenfranchised groups which have historically been the subject of discrimination. There are arguments both for and against providing equal access to services, with conservatives mostly siding against providing these services, citing limited resources and the stress that equal access would place on infrastructure, and liberals mostly arguing for equal access to services, saying that it would go against the nation's principles not to do so. There has been significant progress in providing equal access to services in the last few decades, with passed and enacted legislation such as the Equal Access Act, introduced legislation, and proposed legislation by various groups.
Ethnic and racial minorities in the United States, including Asian Americans, have in particular experienced historical unequal access to services. Asian Americans remain the only racial group to be prevented from entering the United States solely on the basis of race, as demonstrated by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and Tydings-McDuffie Act.
Since they first stepped foot on American soil, immigrant communities have had less access to rights given to privileged citizens, let alone services. A point in case would be African and Asian Americans, who were not allowed to vote until 1965, with the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires that the Department of Justice or U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia "preclear" any attempt to change "any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting" in "any covered jurisdiction". This is to prevent the effect of discrimination on the basis of race or color. There are also provisions in the Act that require translators or multilingual ballots to be provided for citizens who do not speak English upon request. However, these communities have had to fight for access to services such as TV, radio, news, and other print in their native languages. Although ideally immigrants would be encouraged to take English language classes, the reality is that they lack access to these services. Many immigrant communities also face lack of access to legal, medical, social security, and other services which would require at least an interpreter.
Definition of terms
The Equal Access Act is a United States federal law passed on August 11, 1984 to prevent the unequal treatment or discrimination and to provide equal access among non-curricular student clubs in public secondary schools. (17)
The National Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed discriminatory voting practices that had been responsible for the widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans in the United States. The Act is widely considered a landmark in civil-rights legislation, though some of its provisions have sparked political controversy. The Act established extensive federal oversight of elections administration, providing that states with a history of discriminatory voting practices.
Equal: of the same measure, quantity, amount, or number as another
Access: permission, liberty, or ability to enter, approach, or pass to and from a place or to approach or communicate with a person or thing b: freedom or ability to obtain or make use of something c: a way or means of access d: the act or an instance of accessing
Enacted: to establish by legal and authoritative act; specifically: to make (as a bill) into law
Amend: to put right, to change or modify for the better, to reform oneself.
Recent legislation (enacted)
Equal Access to Services Ordinance
The Oakland Equal Access to Services Ordinance says:
A. Utilizing sufficient bilingual employees in public contact positions, departments shall provide information and services to the public in each language spoken by the substantial number of limited-English-speaking persons group. Departments comply with their obligations under this section if they provide the same level of service to members of the substantial number of limited-English-speaking persons group(s) as they provide English speakers.
B. Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize or require the termination, demotion, or transfer of any city employee in order to carry out this chapter.
C. This article shall be interpreted and applied so as to be consistent with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and any article of the city Charter and so as not to impede or impair the city’s obligations to comply with any court order or consent decree (32)
It's components include:
- Bilingual Staffing: "Notwithstanding any other provision hereof, in carrying out this chapter, sufficient bilingual employees will be hired in accordance with compliance plans and meet and confer obligations into current and future vacancies for public contact positions."
- Translation of Materials: The City Manager shall establish an in-house translation service with court certified or American Translators Association accredited translators for the purpose of translating written materials for city departments and providing translations for public meetings as needed or professional services may be contracted out to an accredited translation contractor.
- Dissemination of translated materials from state and federal government: If the state or federal government or any agency thereof makes available to a department written materials in a language other than English, the department shall maintain an adequate stock of the translated materials and shall make them readily available to persons who use the department’s services
- Public meetings and hearings: City commissions and departments shall not be required to translate meeting notices, agendas, or minutes.
- Recorded telephonic messages: All departments shall maintain recorded telephonic messages in each language spoken by the substantial number of limited-English-speaking persons group(s).
- Complaint procedures: Departments shall allow persons to make complaints alleging violation of this chapter to the department in each language spoken by the substantial number of limited-English-speaking persons group(s). The complaints may be made by telephone or by completing a complaint form.
- Compliance plan: the City Manager shall submit to the City Council an annual compliance plan.
- Recruitment: It shall be the policy of the city to publicize job openings for departments’ public contact positions as widely as possible, including, but not limited to, in non-English language media. For every public contact position for which bilingual capacity is necessary, the job shall be advertised as a bilingual position for which bilingual conversational proficiency will be a job requirement.
- Monitoring and structure: The City Manager shall be responsible for monitoring and facilitating compliance with this chapter. The City Manager will review complaints about alleged violations of this chapter and review compliance plans.
- Rules and Regulation: In order to effectuate the terms of this chapter, the City Manager may propose rules and regulations consistent with this chapter
- Enforcement: If City Manager determines that a department is not complying with this chapter, he/she shall take steps to enforce the provisions of the chapter and assure compliance.
- Severity: If any of the provisions of this chapter or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the remainder of this chapter, including the application of such part or provisions to persons or circumstances other than those to which it is held invalid, shall not be affected thereby and shall continue in full force and effect.(32)
Current legislation (Introduced)
Authorizes appropriations for family planning services grants and contracts under the Public Health Service Act (PHSA). Equity in Prescription Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage Act of 2007 [sic]- Amends the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and PHSA to prohibit a group health plan from excluding or restricting benefits for prescription contraceptive drugs, devices, and outpatient services if the plan provides benefits for other outpatient prescription drugs, devices, or outpatient services. Applies such prohibitions to coverage offered in the individual market. Emergency Contraception Education Act of 2009 - Directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop and disseminate information on emergency contraception to the public and to health care providers. Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies Act of 2009 - Requires hospitals, as a condition of receiving federal funds, to offer and to provide, upon request, emergency contraception to victims of sexual assault. At-Risk Communities Teen Pregnancy Prevention Act of 2009 - Authorizes the Secretary to award grants for teenage pregnancy prevention programs. Requires the Secretary to award grants for teenage pregnancy prevention research. Truth in Contraception Act of 2009 - Requires that any information concerning the use of a contraceptive provided through specified federally funded education programs be medically accurate and include health benefits and failure rates. Unintended Pregnancy Reduction Act of 2009 - Amends title XIX (Medicaid) of the Social Security Act to expand Medicaid's coverage of family planning services. Responsible Education About Life Act of 2009 - Requires the Secretary to make grants to states for family life education, including education on abstinence and contraception, to prevent teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Prevention Through Affordable Access Act - Expands Medicaid rebates to manufacturers for the sale of covered outpatient drugs at nominal prices to include sales to student health care facilities and entities offering family planning services.(33)
Intends to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to preserve access to ambulance services under the Medicare Program. (34)
Intends to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide veterans enrolled in the health system of the Department of Veterans Affairs the option of receiving covered health services through facilities other than those of the Department. (35)
Athletic Trainer’s Equal Access to Medicare 2009
The Athletic Trainer’s Equal Access to Medicare 2009 is meant to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide improved access to physical medicine and rehabilitation services under part B of the Medicare Program as well as for other purposes. The purpose of the amendment is to provide access to outpatient occupational and physical therapy services provided incident to a physician’s professional services if furnished by an educated or credentialed therapist who does not have a license, and it is meant to provide coverage of certified athletic trainer services under part B of Medicare, including those provided in rural health clinics and federally qualified health centers. The bill is still in the first stages of the legislative progress as it was introduced on Feb. 23, 2009 and has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. (3)
Children's Mental Health Parity Act
The Children's Mental Health Parity Act is meant to amend title XXI of the Social Security Act to provide equal coverage of mental health services under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. This will require a state child health plan to ensure that the financial requirements and treatment limitations applicable to mental health or substance abuse benefits are no more restrictive than those applied to substantially all medical and surgical benefits covered by the plan. This bill was introduced on January 6th 2009 and is referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. (4)
Community Choice Act of 2009
The Community Choice Act of 2009 is meant to amend title XIX of the Social Security Act to provide individuals with disabilities and older Americans with equal access to community based attendant services and supports, and for other purposes. This act gives people real choices in long term care options by reforming Medicaid by ending the institutional bias (6). It also allows individuals eligible for Nursing Facility Services or Intermediate Care Facility Services for the Mentally Retarded the opportunity to choose instead a new alternative, which is the Community-based Attendant Services and Supports. The bill has been introduced on March 24, 2009 and has been read twice. It has been referred to the committee on Finance. (7)
Education Opportunity Act of 2009
The Educational Opportunity Act of 2009 is meant to expand educational opportunities for all Americans by increasing access to high-quality early childhood education and after school programs, advancing reform in elementary and secondary education, strengthening mathematics and science instruction, and ensuring that higher education is more affordable. This Act is meant to enhance access to high-quality early childhood education, child care, and after school and extended learning services, enhance secondary and post-secondary graduation rates, enhance educational innovation, standards, and assessments. The goal is also to receive a federal grant aid and tax incentives to make higher education more affordable. (8)
National Labor Relations Modernization Act
The National Labor Relations Act was enacted by Congress 1935 to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the United States Economy (9). The National Labor Relations Modernization Act of 2009 is meant to amend the National Labor Relations Act to require employers to provide organizations with equal access to employees prior to an election regarding representation, to prevent delays in initial collective bargaining, and to strengthen enforcement against intimidation of employees by employers. The Bill was introduced on March 5th, 2009 and has been referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor. (10)
Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2009
The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2009, also known as the ABLE Act of 2009, is meant to amend the Internal Revenue Code to establish tax-exempt ABLE accounts for individuals with a disability to pay certain expenses of such individuals, including expenses for education, housing, transportation, employment support, medical care, and certain life necessities. This is a bipartisan legislation introduced to allow individuals with disabilities and their families to create tax-exempt savings accounts similar to Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) and 529 College Savings accounts to save for the added expenses they will experience over their lifetime. This allows individual taxpayers a tax deduction of up to $2,000.00 per year, for contributions to an ABLE account. This bill was introduced on Feb. 26, 2009 to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.(1)
Arguments for and against
Arguments against equal access
- Social Security for Americans Only Act of 2009 is aimed at amending title II of the Social Security Act and the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide prospectively wages earned, self-employment income derived by individuals who are not citizens or nationals of the United States shall not be credited for coverage under the old-age, survivors, and disability insurance program under such title, to provide the President with authority to enter into agreements with other nations taking into account such limitation on crediting of wages and self employment income. This Act is aimed at only Americans and does not help immigrants.(22)
- Many of the nation’s law schools in 2005 begin called themselves the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR), a coalition of 31 law schools have sued to block enforcement of the Solomon Amendment, a federal law requiring universities to give military recruiters equal access to their students or risk losing million of dollars in federal funding. Barring military recruiters from many of the best colleges in the country censors student’s choices and makes it difficult for those interested in the military to pursue their career. A violation of the law cuts off federal funds to an entire university, which means a law school that excludes recruiters can hurt other university departments. (24)
- Cable Broadband providers cannot deliver “open” access to all Internet Service Providers (ISP’s). Today an Internet access provider and independent ISP can negotiate an agreement to provide access service to potential customers. Refusal to negotiate by the cable firm would occur if such an agreement by the independent ISP is likely to provide inferior service relative to that provided by the cable firm’s affiliated ISP. Consumers will always want the highest quality access to the Internet at the lowest price. The government’s role should be to protect the competitive process by respecting and enforcing property rights. New Internet providers should be able to pick and choose those whom they would like to provide service. The Internet providers that are not chosen will not give some consumers equal access to cable. The Cable Broadband providers will continue to charge consumers the prices that they feel are reasonable. (25)
- A federal judge ruled in March 2004 that a group of gay high school students in the Conservative West Texas City cannot meet on campus, siding with the Lubbock school district in a lawsuit filed by students. The Lubbock Gay-Straight Alliance claimed in its lawsuit that the district violated the student’s constitutional rights and federal law, which forbids discrimination against groups meeting on campuses of schools receiving federal funds, by refusing the group’s requests to meet at high school in late 2002. U.S District Judge Sam R Cummings ruled that “the local school officials and parents are in the best position to determine what subject matter is reasonable and will be allowed on the Lubbock Independent School District (LISD) campuses.” In October 2007 the student population was among the highest-ranking fastest Texas growing school districts. Special interest groups should not be allowed to meet on campus and discuss their views on whatever views they feel are appropriate.(26)
- The Christian Legal Society shared some of their views in 2004 through their homepage. Local school authorities, subject to review by the courts determine which student groups are in fact curriculum related. The Supreme Court has made it clear that a school cannot defeat the intent of the Act by defining “curriculum related” in a way that arbitrary results in only those student clubs approved by the school being allowed to meet. The Act implies that schools may not sponsor any noncurriculum related club. Religious clubs are the only clubs that cannot be sponsored by schools. “Student-initiated” clubs means that students themselves are seeking permission to meet and that they will direct and control the meeting. Any outsiders, teachers and other school employees are not allowed to initiate or direct any of the meetings.(27)
Arguments for equal access
- The Equal Access to Services ordinance goal is to improve access to city services for one of the fastest growing populations in San Francisco recent immigrants who are learning to speak and read English. The ordinance provides services in non-English languages to 10,000 city residents, 5 percent or more of the clients served by the department, or 5 percent of the residents of the supervisorial districts in which the department’s offices are located. Each City department must have at least 30 full-time employees to provide information and services to the public not only in English required by the ordinance. Departments are forced to utilize a sufficient number of bilingual staff in public contact positions.(28)
- Equal Access International mission is to create positive social change for millions of underserved people in the developing world by delivering critically needed information and education through innovative media, appropriate technology and direct community engagement. One of there guiding principles is help others understand that information is portable, relatively inexpensive and yet one of the most powerful tools to create social change. But in many parts of the world, information is a scare and inaccessible resource. In 2001, Equal Access International partnered with the United Nations Foundation and UNDP to develop a regional project to address HIV/AIDS prevention and women’s and girl’s empowerment in four Asian Countries.(29)
- The Coalition for Equal Access to Education is committed to working with the community, education and government stakeholders to promote access to quality, equitable education and services for K-12 ESL learners. According to Alberta Learning the number of ESL learners identified in the Calgary, Alabama school district rose from 23,180 to 26,806 from the 2002 to 2003 school year. Though schools commonly place students age- approximately, they may not provide academic and language support to assist learners with a background of sporadic education.(30)
- The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) has been a leader in the fight to gain equal access to government services that Asian Americans have paid for with their tax dollars over the last thirty years. Some examples include: bilingual ballots and election materials in city elections, translators in many governmenet agencies and courts and the hiring of more Asian American staff at federal, state, and local agencies all of over the New York area. In 2007, the New Jersey Asian American Legal Project to inform Asian American’s about their labor rights and not show their vulnerability by employer’s because of their lack of knowledge. (19)
- Asian Americans for Equality mission is to advance the rights of Asian Americans and all those in need through advocacy and access in civil rights, immigrant, assistance, social service, affordable housing, and economic development. The AAFE housing legal & social services has provided services for Asian Americans in the New York area, they include: housing legal assistance and representation, immigration assistance and naturalization preparation, healthcare access, Food Stamps enrollment and counseling. (31)
Asian American relations to equal access
Asian American groups
The Asian American Justice Center (Washington, DC), founded in 1991, works to advance the human and civil rights for Asian Americans, and build and promote a fair and equitable society for all.The Center works to resolve issues such as affirmative action, anti-Asian violence prevention/race relations, census, immigrant rights, immigration, language access, television diversity and voting rights. (18)
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (New York, NY), founded in 1974, is a national organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. AALDEF focuses on critical issues including immigrant rights, civic participation and voting rights, economic justice for workers, language access to services, Census policy, affirmative action, youth rights and educational equity, and the elimination of anti-Asian violence, police misconduct, and human trafficking. (19)
Asian Americans for Equality, Inc. (New York, NY) is a non-profit organization established in 1974 with a mission of empowering Asian Americans and providing social services and products for Asian Americans. AAFE services include community development and housing preservation, housing legal services, community education, citizenship preparation, and social services. AAFE Community Development Fund and Renaissance Economic Development Corporation provides homeownership counseling and small business training.(20)
The Asian American Legal Resource Center (Washington, DC) was founded in1998 in response to the lack of linguistically and culturally appropriate legal services for the growing number of Asian Americans. The APALRC has launched and established several direct service projects, including a multi-lingual legal referral helpline and legal interpreter project, a worker representation project, and a legal assistance project for victims of domestic violence. In 2002, the APALRC expanded into civil rights advocacy with its involvement on the issue of language access. (21)
Chinese for Affirmative Action (San Francisco, CA) was founded in 1969, to secure the equal access to employment and the creation of job opportunities for Chinese Americans. As of 2007, its stated mission is "to defend and promote the civil and political rights of Chinese and Asian Americans within the context of, and in the interest of, advancing multiracial democracy in the United States." (23)
Articles and resources
- (1) ABLE Act of 2009, S. 493, 111th Cong. (2009-2010), http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s111-493.
- (25) An Analysis of the Arguments in Favor of a Forced-Access Policy for Internet Cable Broadband Technology. (1999, December 3). Retrieved April 18, 2009, from Mackinac Center for Public Policy Web site: http://www.mackinac.org/article.aspx?ID=2574
- (18) Asian American Justice Center. (2009). Retrieved April 28, 2009, from http://www.advancingequality.org/about_us/
- (19) Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. (2009). Retrieved April 7, 2009, from https://www.aaldef.org/about.php
- (20) Asian Americans for Equality. (2009). Retrieved April 7, 2009, from http://www.aafe.org/
- (21) Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center. (2009). Retrieved April 7, 2009, from http://www.apalrc.org/news.html
- (26) The Associated Press. (2004, March 4). First Amendment Topics. In Gay-straight student club can't meet at high school. Retrieved April 21, 2009, from First Amendment Center Web site: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/news.aspx?id=12795
- (33) Prevention First Act, S. 21, 111th Cong. (2009-2010), http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-s21/text
- (34) H.R.2443, 111th Cong. (2009-2010), http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h2443/text
- (35) Richard Helm Veterans' Access to Local Health Care Options and Resources Act. 111th Cong (2009-2010), http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h2405/text
- (3) Athletic Trainers' Equal Access to Medicare Act of 2009, H.R. 1137, 111th Cong. (2009-2010), http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-1137.
- (4) Children's Mental Health Parity Act, S. 77, 111th Cong. (2009-2010), http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s111-77.
- (23) Chinese for Affirmative Action. (2008, December 16). Retrieved April 7, 2009, from Wikimedia Foundation Inc. Web site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_for_Affirmative_Action
- 6) Community Choice Act. (2009). ADAPT. Retrieved April 27, 2009, from http://www.adapt.org/index.php
- (7) Community Choice Act of 2009, S. 683, 111th Cong. (2009-2010), http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s111-683.
- (22) Congress Legislation. (2009). Text of H.R. 160: Social Security for Americans Only Act of 2009. Retrieved April 27, 2009, from GovTrack.us Web site: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h111-160
- (8) Education Opportunity Act of 2009, S. 7, 111th Cong. (2009-2010), http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s111-7.
- (17) Equal Access Act. (2009, March 29). Retrieved April 7,2009, from Wikimedia Foundation Inc. Web site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal_Access_Act
- (27) Equal Access Act. (2004, August 13). Retrieved April 23, 2009, from Christian Legal Society Web site: http://www.clsnet.org/clrfPages/pubs/pubs_equal2.php
- Equal Access Act. (2000, November 13). United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. Retrieved April 7, 2009, from http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/cor/byagency/ed4071.php
- (32) Equal Access to Services. (2009). Chapter 2.30. Retrieved May 3, 2009, from http://www.bpcnet.com/cgi-bin/hilite.pl/codes/oakland/_DATA/TITLE02/Chapter_2_30_EQUAL_ACCESS_TO_S.html
- (12) Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act, H.R. 1388, 111th Cong. (2009-2010), http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h111-1388.
- (11) HR 1388. (2009, March 26). Vote: Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Ac. Retrieved April 28, 2009, from http://www.govit.com/vote/congress.aspx?bill=2009-hr-1388
- (13) Kittredge, B. M. (2009, March 9). (GIVE) Act. In Committee on Education and Labor. Retrieved April 28, 2009 from http://edlabor.house.gov/blog/2009/03/the-generations-invigorating-v.shtml
- National CAPACD. (2009). Retrieved April 7, 2009, from http://www.nationalcapacd.org/
- (10) National Labor Relations Modernization Act, H.R. 1355, 111th Cong. (2009-2010), http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-1355.
- (9) National Labor Relations Act. (2009). National Labor Relations Board. Retrieved April 27, 2009, from http://www.nlrb.gov/about_us/overview/national_labor_relations_act.aspx
- (24) Nider, S. J. (2005, July 23). National Defense and Homeland Security The War Against Terrorism. In Equal Access Denied. Retrieved April 22, 2009, from http://www.dlc.org/ ndol_ci.cfm?kaid=124&subid=307&contentid=253460
- (29) Our Mission. (2009). Retrieved April 26, 2009, from Equal Access International Web site:
- (30) Our Vision. (2009). Retrieved April 25, 2009, from Coalition for Equal Access Education Web site: http://www.eslaction.com/
- (28) Overview of San Francisco Equal Access to Services Ordinance. (n.d.). EQUAL ACCESS TO SERVICES ORDINANCE . Retrieved April 26, 2009, from Chinese for Affirmative Action Web site: http://www.caasf.org/PDFs/Overview-of-SF-Equal-Access-to-Services-Ordinance.pdf
- (31) Williams, E. B. (2007). Comparative Statistics About Equal Access to Justice In Different Countries. Retrieved April 22, 2009, from National Equal Justice Library Web site: http://www.equaljusticelibrary.org.cnchost.com/international/comparative.asp