May an LEP person use a family member or friend as his or her interpreter?

A qualified interpreter is an individual who is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively and expressively, using any specialized vocabulary required by the circumstances. In many cases, especially when information about important medical decisions or consent is at issue, friends and family members may not have the ability to ensure the LEP person being served fully understands what a health provider is communicating to them. In other cases, a family member or friend may have an interest in misrepresenting what is being said, such as when domestic abuse is the cause of a medical visit. Therefore, when important information is being conveyed and providing interpretation is a reasonable step for providing meaningful access to a program by a person with LEP, it is the provider’s responsibility to provide competent interpreter services at no cost to the person being served. A person with LEP can always decline using an interpreter provided by a recipient.

Content created by Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
Content last reviewed on November 19, 2015