(Washington, DC) The DC Language Access Program is sponsoring the first ever “Document Drive” for translated documents in the District of Columbia in an effort to reach residents who are limited-English proficient (LEP). The program, part of the DC Office of Human Rights (OHR), is providing local community-based organizations with the opportunity to identify District government agencies from which they would like to receive documents and to request materials in specific languages other than English. Examples of essential documents selected for dissemination include agency brochures, fact sheets, “how to” instructions, and applications that have been translated into several languages, including Amharic, traditional Chinese, French, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Approximately 60 organizations have been contacted to participate and, depending on the level of response, the Program aims to have all identified documents disseminated to participating organizations by the end of October 2006. Cesar Watts, Outreach Coordinator for DC Learns, believes the drive to be an “excellent initiative on behalf of the Office of Human Rights in making District government information available to community-based organizations.”
The DC Language Access Program is charged with collecting all vital documents translated to date under the DC Language Access Act of 2004. The Program presently works internally with 22 District agencies including the Department of Human Services, the Department of Employment Services, and the DC Public School System. This initiative also encourages representatives from organizations that receive the translated documents to meet with their respective Language Access Coordinators to bridge other potential language barriers. “This is a clear demonstration of the government working hand-in-hand with the District’s LEP communities to create awareness of and ensure access to government services,” says the Director of the Office of Human Rights, Kenneth L. Saunders. “It is a true indication of what we can collectively achieve.”
Data from the 2005 US Census shows that the District presently has a reported 15.7% resident population who speaks a language other than English. Of that 15.7% resident population, approximately 6% are LEP or speak English “less than very well.” Pursuant to federal and local laws, including the DC Language Access Act of 2004, the District is committed to initiating efforts such as the “Document Drive” to make its services, programs and activities more accessible to all of its communities.
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