Cleveland Plans to Improve Accessibility for Non-English Speakers

Cleveland’s city government wants to make its services more accessible to people with limited English skills.

The most recent Census data show about 5 percent of Clevelanders are foreign-born, and 12 percent speak a foreign language at home. But city government speaks only one language: English.

"The telephone prompts, some of the signage, our website is English-only," said City Council President Kevin Kelley. He said some of those may soon be available in other languages.

They’ve all been identified as hurdles for limited English speakers by a group working on the issue. It includes officials from the mayor’s office, City Council, and the Legal Aid Society.

Kelley said Legal Aid spurred the effort because its clients were having trouble with things like birth certificates. But city officials are also conscious of another challenge: reversing the city’s population decline.

"We want to continue to welcome people to Cleveland – immigrants, refugees. That is a part of it," Kelley said.

Cleveland is among many cities taking a global approach to stemming population loss and the economic challenges that come with it.

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