Your right to an interpreter from DTA

Also in
Show Endnotes
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

If English is not your main language, DTA must provide a bilingual worker or interpreter who speaks the language you are more comfortable in.

If you are Deaf or hard of hearing, DTA must make sure that you can communicate with them. This can include CART (communication access real time translation), or sign language interpretation.

What if I can speak a little bit of English?

You still have the right to an interpreter. If you are more comfortable in your native language than in English, you have the right to an interpreter. You need to understand everything the worker says. The worker needs to understand everything that you say. Otherwise, there might be problems with your case.

How do I ask for an interpreter?

If you call DTA

When calling the DTA Assistance Line, DTA has a recording with the prompts you can push to get information in your language. The Assistance Line is recorded in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese, Vietnamese, and Haitian Creole. It has a separate prompt (#7) to push for other languages. 

If you select a language other than English, then: 

  • You should be connected to a bilingual DTA worker, or 
  • The DTA worker should do a three-way call with you, and a free interpreter on a language line interpreter service.

If you call the Senior Assistance Office at (833) 712-8027 if you are 60 or older, or get cash from DTA and call your cash worker, DTA must provide a free interpreter.

DTA cannot ask you to have a child, friend, or other person you know interpret. They must provide a free interpreter under federal law.

If you are at a DTA office

Tell the DTA person you talk to that you need an interpreter.

If they cannot understand you, they should show you a "How can we help you" board. This is a board that has many languages listed on it. If you see your language, point to it so DTA knows which language you need an interpreter to speak. If they still cannot understand you, they should use the "Language Line" over the phone to get help figuring out which language you need.

Do I have to pay anything for the interpreter?

No, it is free. The government pays for the interpreter.

What if DTA makes me wait because I need an interpreter?

DTA should not make you wait a long time for an interpreter.

If you call or go in person to apply for benefits, DTA must let you apply the same day, even if you need an interpreter.

If you need to speak to a worker, the worker should find an interpreter. If DTA cannot get one, or it takes a long time to get an interpreter, contact [email protected]

Can I get written documents, like applications and notices, in my language?

DTA Online applications at are currently in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Cantonese, and Vietnamese.

DTA paper applications are available in 13 languages: Spanish, Portuguese, French, Haitian Creole, Chinese, Vietnamese, Khmer, Korean, Russian, Italian, Polish, Arabic and English. You can download and print these applications at

Most DTA notices are in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Simplified Chinese, and Haitian Creole. DTA forms (like recertification and interim reports) are currently only in English and Spanish. If you can't understand the notice, call the DTA Assistance Line (877-382-2363) for help when you get any DTA form or notice in the mail. It is important to call DTA so you do not have an interruption to your benefits.

I got a notice denying, cutting, or stopping my benefits. Can I get help filing an appeal? Will I get an interpreter at the hearing?

If you get a notice from DTA saying that your benefits will be cut or stopped, you can file an appeal.

If you need help understanding the form, call DTA to ask for an interpreter to translate it for you. You can fill out the appeal form in your own language, or ask the interpreter to translate your answers. If you call to file an appeal, the person you talk to must give you an interpreter.

You also have the right to an interpreter at the appeal hearing. Call the Division of Hearings to let them know you need an interpreter.  The phone number for the Division of Hearings is (617) 348-5321.

What if DTA does not give me an interpreter?

Ask to speak to a supervisor or manager. If that doesn't help, call the DTA Ombuds at 617-348-5354. If you still do not get help, file a complaint with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. Call the New England Regional FNS Office to learn more: 617-565-6424.

If you speak a language other than English and DTA:

  • refuses to give you an interpreter, or
  • contacts you in English when they know you do not speak it,

Contact [email protected].

You can also contact your local Legal Aid office for help.

What services does DTA have if I am Deaf or hard of hearing?

All DTA local offices currently have Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) services.

VRI is an auxiliary aid to communicate with Deaf and hard of hearing people using remote American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter services. If you are Deaf or hard of hearing and would like ASL interpreter service through VRI, go to an office with VRI or contact a Client Assistance Coordinator to set up an appointment in advance.

DTA also has an option to communicate with a Client Assistance Coordinator via Zoom, with an ASL interpreter on the Zoom video.


Was this page helpful?