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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The District of Columbia Language Access program partners spoke with approximately 90 advocates and government officials nationwide today in an online discussion about the District’s successful efforts to ensure all residents receive quality translation and interpretation services. The webinar – hosted by the Migration Policy Institute – focused on the District’s language access work in building a collaborative District-wide process for formulating contracts and implementing the services used by residents who are limited English or non-English speakers.
The webinar underscored the importance of a citywide contract that sets quality control measures and uniform standards across agencies, and the need to engage community members to uncover common difficulties faced by those who need language access services. Language access partners began reviewing the existing live translation and document interpretation services with the Office of Contracting and Procurement (OCP) in 2009 after concerns existing services were not meeting customer needs because of poor quality. Last year, after extensive best practices research and unprecedented cooperation across agencies, a new solicitation and contracting process was implemented that most believe has greatly improved the services available.
“We appreciate the opportunity to talk with language access advocates and city and state officials about our successful efforts because it is so important to those who speak limited or no English,” said Mónica Palacio, Director of the Language Access Program. “Without vendors who provide reliable quality translation and interpretation services, District residents will continue to be denied equal access.”
Today’s webinar was moderated by Migration Policy Institute’s Chhandasi Pandya with presenters Neel Saxena of the Office of Asian Pacific Islander Affairs (OAPIA) and Simone Richardson of OCP. District-wide Language Access Program partners include OAPIA, as well as the Office of African Affairs (OAA) and Office of Latino Affairs (OLA). The District of Columbia’s Office of Human Rights (OHR) is charged with oversight of the Language Access Program office.
“Collaboration is a necessary component in an agencies’ daily work. OAPIA with OAA, OLA and OHR, have been successful partners in finding innovative approaches in reaching our limited English and non-English communities,” said Soohyun “Julie” Koo, Executive Director for OAPIA. “OAPIA is pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the webinar and believes that agency coordination leads to effective outcomes. And for our communities, that means information can be passed along to them quicker.”
To learn more about the Language Access Program and services offered to residents accessing District government services, visit ohr.dc.gov/languageaccess. To see public service announcements from the recent “Know Your Rights” language access campaign, or to download “I Speak” cards, visit ohr.dc.gov/ispeak.
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.