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DC Office of Human Rights Issues Mid-year Language Access Program Update

Friday, March 18, 2011
OHR report highlights high rate (27%) of favorable decisions for Language Access complainants.

Overview of the Language Access Program

The Language Access Program was established by the DC Office of Human Rights (OHR) to lead the citywide implementation of the Language Access Act of 2004 (Act), which was enacted to provide greater access and participation in public services, programs, and activities for residents of the District of Columbia with limited or no-English proficiency (LEP/NEP). The Program was designed to support, guide, and oversee the 34 agencies’ compliance with the Act. The Language Access Program works in consultation with a variety of government offices that conduct outreach to communities, as well as with the D.C. Language Access Coalition (“Coalition”) — an alliance of diverse community-based organizations written by name into the law — to ensure that LEP/NEP residents are represented, exercising their legal rights, and receiving services in their language. Government partners include the Mayor’s constituency offices on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs (OAPIA), Latino Affairs (OLA) and African Affairs (OAA).

Language Access Cases

Throughout its six years of overseeing and enforcing the Act, the OHR has observed increases in the number of Language Access cases brought to the OHR.  Of the 22 language Access cases filed with OHR since 2005, 27% received findings of a violation, 5% received a finding of partial compliance and 5% were settled successfully.  Below is a snapshot of the cases filed by year, along with the number of cases where OHR determined a violation had occurred.

Number of Cases by year, with findings
2005:   1 case=Partial Compliance
2006:   0
2007:   0
2008:   5 cases, with 2 findings of violations and one settled
2009:   6 cases, with 2 findings of violations
2010:   9 cases, with 2 findings of violations
2011:   1 case, still under review

2011 Language Access Community Forums

OHR, in partnership with the OAA, OAPIA, OLA, and a variety of CBOs, are hosting two public language access forums for the LEP/NEP community. The purpose of these language access forums is to facilitate a dialogue between key stakeholders on issues of employment and health & social services. The hope is that by creating an appropriate space to discuss the various issues the LEP/NEP community faces accessing these services, the forums will generate new ideas, solutions, and recommendations that can be used to increase access to services. The employment forum will be held Saturday, May 21st at the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School from 10 am to 2 pm.  The health& social services forum will be held Saturday, June 4 at the Columbia Heights Recreational Center from 1pm to 5pm. Information about the services that will be provided at the forums will be disseminated as soon as they are confirmed. For more information contact Gabriel Rojo, the Language Access Program Director, at 202-727-3942 or email [email protected].   

Self-Reporting System Automated

OHR, in collaboration with OCTO, is in the process of automating agency language access quarterly reports and biennial language access plans.  The goal of this initiative is to both reduce the use of paper and to make use of staff time for reporting more efficient across the 34 agencies covered by the Act.