San Bernardino makes council meetings more accessible to Spanish speakers – San Bernardino Sun

San Bernardino will soon offer live Spanish interpretation and translation services at City Council meetings.

Closed captioning in English also will be introduced for deaf and hard-of-hearing residents who watch the council’s biweekly meetings online or on television.

The move received unanimous support Wednesday, May 4.

Proposed by Councilman Ben Reynoso last year to make council meetings more accessible to constituents who want to follow local politics but face language-based roadblocks, the addition of interpretation services is expected to cost $71,000 in one-time expenses and anywhere between $19,000 and $30,000 annually.

Additional translation services – Vietnamese and American Sign Language, in particular – will not be pursued at this time.

“I brought this item forward with the intention of including all of our community: Spanish, Vietnamese, ASL and Closed Captioning for all council meetings,” Reynoso said in a text message Thursday. The “council shortchanged the public by only approving Spanish interpretation services, but for now I am grateful for this true step towards true inclusion.”

Two Spanish-language interpreters will be at future council meetings to translate for those in attendance. They will be scheduled for approximately 24 regular meetings a year.

New equipment will allow Spanish-speaking attendees to follow along with the interpreters in real time.

Acquiring headsets for this segment of the in-person audience will allow for the Spanish-interpreted meeting to be live streamed via a remote platform, city staffers wrote in a report to the City Council. As a result, Spanish-speaking residents will be able to watch their government at work without having to attend in person.

In 2010, 60% of San Bernardino residents identified as Hispanic, according to U.S. census data.

In 2020, Esri, a geographic information system software company based in Redlands, estimated that 66% of residents identified as such.

Last year, city officials noted that 15% of San Bernardino residents are registered to vote in Spanish.

As far as English-language closed captioning, new city software set to be rolled out in July will provide the service, thus offering greater accessibility and transparency for constituents, city staffers wrote. Inland Empire Media Group, which airs all council meetings, will bear the cost of adding the closed captioning system.

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