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Community Voices Heard on Impact of Language Access After 10 Years

Monday, June 23, 2014

Community Voices Heard on Impact of Language Access After 10 Years

Government and community join forces to discuss service delivery to immigrant populations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Monday, June 23, 2014

CONTACT: Elliot Imse, Director of Policy and Communications – 202.481.3773; elliot.imse@dc.gov

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) –On Saturday the DC Office of Human Rights (OHR) convened a multilingual community dialogue and resource fair where about 100 diverse limited and non-English proficient residents made recommendations for strengthening Language Access in the District.  The recommendations were the result of two-hour simultaneous roundtable discussions that took place in 10 different languages. As the second installment in a series of events hosted by OHR to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the DC Language Access Act, this unique community dialogue supplemented report findings from an Urban Institute study released in April, with direct community feedback on Language Access implementation over the last 10 years directly from the intended users.

“It’s truly incredible to be part of a city that welcomes, nurtures and enables its immigrant communities to thrive and contribute,” said OHR Language Access Program Director Winta Teferi. “As an immigrant myself, I know that Language Access is crucial for ensuring that those who speak little or no English can participate meaningfully in their government. Because DC is home to one of the most linguistically diverse populations, it is imperative that we engage and hear from all communities to ensure we meet the unique needs of all residents who speak little or no English.”

During the roundtable discussions facilitated in different languages, community members shared their personal stories, identified the barriers they face, and provided targeted recommendations directly to government agency representatives who came to hear the feedback. In addition, community members had the opportunity to peruse a plethora of exhibitors during the resource fair and learn about the many services the District has to offer. Participants were accompanied by interpreters as they received dental check-ups, applied for economic benefits, and received information on education, housing, job training, ESL classes and more.

 “As District employees, we are continuously working to ensure quality service delivery and seamless interactions with the public by eliminating  language barriers, but today was really an excellent opportunity to listen and assist community members while learning more about their challenges in accessing services,” said Eric Brock, Language Access Coordinator for the Department of Motor Vehicles . “As immigrant  communities grow, we must continue to learn how to approach outreach and service provision in a culturally competent manner and participate in more of these fairs to ensure that we are tuned into everyone’s needs in the District.”

OHR plans to use feedback from the event to inform priorities for the program, and to continue advising District government agencies on best practices for strengthening linguistically and culturally competent service delivery.

Photos from the event are available on our Facebook page at facebook.com/dcohr. For more information on the Language Access Program, visit ohr.dc.gov/languageaccess.

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About the Language Access Act

The purpose of the Language Access Act is to provide access and participation in public services, programs and activities for the District’s limited and non-English proficient constituents at a level equal to that of English proficient individuals. All District government agencies, divisions or programs – including government contractors and grantees that provide information or render services to the public, are covered under this Act.

About the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights

The District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (OHR) was established to eradicate discrimination, increase equal opportunity and protect human rights for persons who live in or visit the District of Columbia. The agency enforces local and federal human rights laws, including the DC Human Rights Act, by providing a legal process to those who believe they have been discriminated against. OHR also proactively enforces human rights in the District through Director’s Inquiries, which allow it to identify and investigate practices and policies that may be discriminatory.