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OHR and DCPS Team Up To Serve Families with Limited English

Tuesday, July 1, 2008
"I speak" cards were delivered to 4,000 families to help them obtain services.

The Office of Human Rights (OHR) and DC Public Schools (DCPS) embarked on a joint effort today to ensure that more than 4,000 families know their right to receive services in their own language as part of Mayor Fenty’s continuing “Know Your Rights” campaign for District residents with limited or no English proficiency (LEP/NEP).

Families who seek to obtain services and participate in the activities of DC government agencies and public schools, but who may need information in a language other than English, are protected by the Language Access Act of 2004, which requires District agencies to provide oral and written language services to LEP/NEP residents.

“Our goal is for every resident of the District of Columbia to be fully integrated into our community,” said Gustavo Velasquez, director of OHR. “This will be accomplished only when barriers, such as language, are broken.”

“I speak” cards generated by the Office of Human Rights were mailed to LEP/NEP families whose preferred language of communication falls under one of six languages presently covered by the local law: Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Amharic, French and Korean. The cards read, “I speak _______. I need language assistance. Please make note of my spoken language in your records, as well as my need for an interpreter.”

DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee embraces this initiative. “We want all families to be active members of this school system and their children’s educational development," Rhee said. "We have faith that this effort is one of many in the right direction and encourage our families to exercise their individual rights to access and participation.”

The District of Columbia is one of few jurisdictions in this country who enforce both federal and local legislation protecting individuals’ rights to services who are limited in their capacity to communicate in the English language. To learn more about the District’s Language Access requirements, residents should dial (202) 727-4559 to reach OHR or visit www.ohr.dc.gov.