FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, March 18, 2015
CONTACT: Elliot Imse, Director of Policy and Communications – 202.481.3773; [email protected]
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The District’s Language Access (LA) Program, administered by the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (OHR), released its 2014 Annual Compliance Review today summarizing the performance of 33 District government agencies in meeting requirements of the DC Language Access Act of 2004 (the Act). The report also highlights the tremendous strides the District has made over the last ten years to ensure individuals that speak limited or no English are provided equal opportunity to and full access and participation in all the city has to offer. Presently, the District is home to more than 90,000 foreign-born residents who account for one third of the city’s population growth since 2007.
District government as a whole, and major public contact agencies in particular, have undergone a remarkable transformation over the last decade to adapt to a changing service population and learning to serve non-English speaking customers. The report indicates that in FY14 alone, 71,139 calls were made by frontline staff who used a phone-based interpreter to communicate with their customer; 1638 vital documents were translated by major public contact agencies; 30 major public contact agencies included links on their websites to information in six languages; and more than 3000 District employees and grantees were trained on Language Access Compliance and Cultural Competency.
“Language access improves quality of life for all District residents, because the better we can communicate with one another, the stronger and safer our communities will be,” said OHR Director Mónica Palacio. “The District has long been a leader in championing equity for its foreign-born populations through legislation and implementation, and we hope to continue to be a model nation-wide as a local government that truly creates opportunities and leverages the diverse gifts of its residents regardless of where they were born or what language they speak.”
Fiscal year 2014 was a critical year in language access for the District, as the city celebrated the ten-year anniversary of the DC Language Access Act of 2004 through engagement events and the release of a report on DC language access by the Urban Institute. Additionally, regulations guiding the implementation of the Language Access Act were updated, a walkthrough protocol for public official visits in linguistically diverse neighborhoods was adopted, and the District officially joined the Welcoming Cities Initiative – a network of cities and counties committed to building inclusive policies and practices that lead to socially and economically vibrant communities.
More details about individual agency compliance and other program highlights are available in the Language Access in the District: 2014 Annual Compliance Review, which is available for download at http://ohr.dc.gov/page/languageaccess/2014report.
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 information or render 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.