FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, July 11, 2018
CONTACT: Stephanie Franklin, Director of Communications & Community Engagement – 202.727.1145; [email protected]
OHR Highlights Major Strides in Language Access in Fiscal Year 2017 Compliance Review
Annual review shares District-wide language access milestones
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, the District’s Language Access Program (Program), housed in the DC Office of Human Rights (OHR), released its FY 2017 Annual Compliance Review. This report presents assessments of citywide efforts to create equal access for individuals with limited-English proficiency and to meet the requirements of the DC Language Access Act of 2004.
With nearly 13.3% or 91,000 foreign-born residents, the District is home to one of the most diverse populations in the country. Roughly 17.1% or 109,280 of all District residents speak a language other than English at home, and almost 35.2% of all foreign-born residents are limited-English proficient. “In the midst of an increasingly hostile national discourse on immigration, Mayor Bowser stands firmly on her commitment and that of our District agencies to take bolder steps and ensure that our city continues to be welcoming and accessible to immigrant communities that decide that make the District their home. Our foreign-born residents contribute greatly to the cultural, economic and civic vitality of our city, and our DC Values require us to make certain that LEP/NEP individuals receive equitable services and participate meaningfully throughout our government” said OHR Director Mónica Palacio
The Annual Compliance Review details specific steps agencies are taking to provide translation and interpretation services, and to implement strategies that allow limited-English proficient individuals to access services in their own language. In FY17, 38 District agencies collectively reported over 204,783 encounters with limited-English proficient individuals who spoke 73 different languages, made 71,859 calls to access a telephonic interpreter, utilized in-person interpretation services in 40,175 interactions with a limited-English proficient customer, and translated roughly 2,000 vital documents into Spanish, Amharic, French, Chinese, and 16 other languages spoken by their customers. Over 5,000 frontline employees across District agencies also received language access compliance and cultural competency training.
“There is no question that more work needs to be done to fully actualize the District’s values of inclusion and access. However, more and more agencies are putting in place the resources, systems and processes needed to effectively serve a linguistically diverse community”said Winta Teferi, the Program Director. The report further highlights the work of OHR’s Language Access Program, summarizes the compliance profile of 23 agencies with newly-appointed Language Access Points of Contact, and contains individual scorecards for 38 agencies with major public contact. Additionally, field tests conducted at 17 agencies in 2017 showed that 59% of tested agencies provided interpretation services at a higher rate than they did in 2016. Agencies such as the Fire and EMS, the Department of Employment Services, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, and the Metropolitan Police Department have truly turned a corner and have invested in creating the practices and tools needed to fulfill the requirements of the Language Access Act.
For detailed information on the District’s FY17 language access implementation efforts, compliance scorecards of 38 District agencies, and to download the report, visit ohr.dc.gov/page/languageaccess/2017report.
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 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.
 Migration Policy Institute tabulations of 2016 one-year estimate data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS).