Community Engagement and Language Accessibility (King County, WA)

King County, Washington is home to over 2.2 million people, most living in Seattle or its neighboring suburbs. With one of the most diverse populations in the Pacific Northwest, King County includes one of the nation’s highest concentrations of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Somoan, Somali, and Chinese communities among its total population.  King County residents speak a large range of languages, which include Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Vietnamese, and many more. In fact, nearly 30% of residents are speakers of a non-English language.

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Speakers of a Non-English Language

The King County community engagement hub serves as the single access point for community members to contribute their comments, feedback and ideas on important county initiatives.

The Language Accessibility Challenge

Communities with highly diverse populations often struggle to ensure accessible and inclusive public engagement for everyone, particularly with regard to multilingual input and feedback.  In this respect King County is no different.   With a strong belief that all residents deserve to have a voice in their community, King County has committed to providing an accessible and equitable engagement community-wide.   

To experiment with this, the County took the opportunity to take language accessibility challenges head on with their Lake Swimming Beaches Survey initiative.  Famous for its temperate climate, residents and visitors of the County’s recreation system take advantage of amenities year round.  Using the Lake Swimming Beaches Survey, the County sought to gauge how often residents visit the County’s lakes and how often beach closures, due to water quality, affect the visitor’s experience.   The primary goal of the initiative was to use the collected data to inform and improve the County’s Beach Water Testing Project.

Accessible Community Engagement Powered by PublicInput

Using the PublicInput community engagement software, King County launched its “Beaches Survey” to the community with language accessibility targeted at the following 10 languages: 

    1. Amharic
    2. Chinese
    3. English
    4. Korean
    5. Punjabi
    6. Russian
    7. Somali
    8. Spanish
    9. Ukrainian
    10. Vietnamese

The County created individualized survey segments and unique URLs for each of the translated surveys, which allowed them to track participants and their language preferences for future outreach. 

The Custom Links feature allows project managers track participants by language.

The PublicInput CRM automatically captures participants using custom links in an associated segment for future outreach and communication purposes.

The Outcome

Despite the identified language accessibility challenges, the Lake Swimming Beaches Survey initiative was successful in reaching over 1,400 residents. The data collected was used to inform and improve the County’s Beach Water Testing Project. 

Using PublicInput, the King County team was able to meet the needs of a diverse population while informing a plan to protect public health by providing timely and accessible water quality information to the public. Project benefits include the ability for the team to: 

  • Increase resident reach by using online surveys that supported the needed language accessibility. 
  • Offer decision makers defensible options that were supported with safely stored information in the form of meeting recordings and online survey responses.  
  • Develop and validate community insights that supported a recommended action.
  • Save time by segmenting participants based on language support needs.  

Want to learn more about the PublicInput accessible community engagement features? Book a tour today! 

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