FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
CONTACT: Elliot Imse (OHR) 202.481.3773; firstname.lastname@example.org
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The Office of Human Rights (OHR) Language Access (LA) Program released its 2012 Language Access Compliance Review today. The report highlights accomplishments District agencies have made in compliance and gaps that still undermine full accessibility for limited English proficient and non-English proficient (LEP/NEP) customers. The report – which provides LA compliance scorecards for 32 agencies with major public contact – calls particular attention to three areas where improvements are most needed: (1) tracking LEP/NEP customers; (2) translation of vital documents for customers; and (3) accessibility of agency websites.
“Agencies have made improvements, but more work must be done to ensure residents who are limited or non-English proficient are able to reliably access information and services the District government offers,” said Mónica Palacio, Director of the LA Program, which is overseen by OHR. “This Compliance Review more thoroughly addresses agency strengths and areas for improvement using a scorecard format that will help the Language Access Program more accurately track progress or the lack thereof.”
The new methodology uses both quantitative and qualitative measures to provide a window into the state of LA compliance across the 32 agencies. It provides a narrative-based assessment that allows District residents, advocates and agencies to more thoroughly understand the strengths and weaknesses of agencies, and makes agency-specific recommendations to improve service to LEP/NEP customers. The report also previews results from field tests conducted at 23 agencies, and reviews the seven language access complaints filed with OHR in fiscal year 2012.
The LA Program was created by the Language Access Act of 2004, and requires it monitor the language access compliance of all District agencies with an emphasis on those with major public contact. The Act mandates District agencies make interpretation services available to all LEP/NEP customers seeking services, and that agencies translate vital documents into languages used by either 500 LEP/NEP customers or 3 percent of its total customers, whichever is less. The LA Program assists agencies in achieving compliance by providing agencies with training and technical support and engaging in extensive outreach to affected communities.
“Access to interpretation services and translated documents is improving because of the tireless work of our Language Access Program team and the dedicated language access coordinators they collaborate with at each agency,” said OHR Director Gustavo Velasquez. “Systematic change is rarely easy, but our team is committed to working on behalf of limited and non-English proficient residents so they can attain greater access to public services and increased participation in government programs and activities.”
The 2012 Language Access Compliance Review is available online at ohr.dc.gov/languageaccess/2012report.
More information about the Language Access Program is available at ohr.dc.gov/languageaccess.
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.
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