~ Kansas City leaders are taking steps to ensure that City Hall is more accessible to all residents. On February 1, Mayor Pro Tem Ryana Parks Shaw, along with 6th District Councilman Jonathan Duncan, 6th District at Large Councilwoman Andrea Bough, and 5th District at Large Councilman Darrell Curls, introduced Ordinance 240165 to establish a municipal Office of Language Access.

The proposed ordinance will be heard on Wednesday, February 6 at 10:00 a.m. before the Finance Governance and Public Safety Committee in Council Chambers. If passed, it could then be heard by the full Council on Thursday, February 7 at 3:00 p.m.

This initiative stems from a resolution passed in July of 2023 by Mayor Pro Tem Ryana Parks Shaw and unanimously supported by the City Council. The resolution directed the City Manager to create a language access plan for residents with Limited English Proficiency. In collaboration with city staff and community stakeholders such as Advocates for Immigrant Rights and Reconciliation and KC Tenants, Mayor Pro Tem Parks Shaw is working towards this goal.

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In addition to this proposed ordinance, the City of Kansas City is implementing other efforts to improve language access for its residents. The Equity Office, City Communications, and Neighborhood's Office of Citizen Engagement are conducting an internal assessment of language access needs in order to better connect with residents through public meetings and other interactions with municipal government.

One example of this effort is through KC BizCare's use of an AI chatbot named "Maya" designed to enhance language accessibility for entrepreneurs interacting with the office. This chatbot can communicate in 71 languages.

The city's SMB Capital Programs also have a Google Translate feature on their central application form. This allows applicants to create their accounts in their preferred language and continue completing their applications in that same language. This program is a partnership with BEAM and partly funded by a Kauffman Foundation grant.

The Latinx Education Collaborative (LEC) Partnership is another collaboration between KC BizCare and the Office of Digital Equity, along with the Latinx Education Collaborative and the Latino Arts Foundation. This partnership aims to provide resources and support for Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs and households. Additionally, the city is working to train six Spanish-speaking digital navigators to assist with access to connectivity programs in Kansas City. The LEC is also providing translation support for office resources and outreach efforts to ensure equitable access to regulatory resources for Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs. This initiative received a grant from the National League of Cities (NLC) and Kauffman Foundation.

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To further improve language access, the city has hired Regina Sosa as the Capital Access Manager under the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City (EDCKC). Sosa is fluent in Spanish, thanks to funding from a Kauffman Foundation grant.

Lastly, Kansas City will be launching its first Kiva Hub in February through a partnership with Kiva US and EDCKC. This program will provide language access tools for loan applications and online resources in multiple languages.

These efforts by city leadership demonstrate their commitment to making Kansas City more inclusive and accessible for all residents. By establishing an Office of Language Access and implementing various initiatives, they are working towards breaking down language barriers and creating equal opportunities for all members of the community.

Filed Under: Government, City

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