FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, May 4, 2017
CONTACT: Stephanie Franklin, Director of Policy & Communications – 202.727.1145; [email protected]
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, the District’s Language Access Program (Program), housed in the DC Office of Human Rights (OHR), released its Annual Compliance Review, measuring the performance of 38 District government agencies in ensuring equitable services to Limited and non-English proficient (LEP/NEP) residents and customers. Since 2004, the Program has steadily held the District’s commitment to welcoming immigrants from all over the world by ensuring our local government is equipped to serve the increasingly diverse communities that decide to make the city their home. 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.
“In the District, we are rightly proud of being a vibrant, growing, and international city. Our DC values are welcoming and inclusive of all, and compliance with the Language Access Act is an embodiment of these values,” said Mayor Bowser. “I’ve challenged all DC Government agencies to look into how they can improve their services – particularly their translation services – so that we can continue building a more accessible government that is open and supportive of all residents.”
In FY 16, the Program initiated several strategic projects to support District agencies in developing the systems and practices required to better meet the needs of a growing and increasingly diverse LEP/NEP population. Key achievements included laying groundwork for compliance within 20 new agencies across the District by appointing Language Access Points of Contacts to assist with frequent LEP/NEP customer encounters; providing language access compliance training to over 4,500 District employees and; developing comprehensive plans with tailored compliance goals, based on agency specialization, to be pursued over the FY17/18 fiscal period as well as; improved overall scores for in-person field testing at 17 agencies with 92% of in-person testers successfully receiving language assistance in seven different languages.
Additionally, the Program partnered with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to pilot a Bilingual Navigator project that provided individual in-language service to LEP/NEP customers while navigating the licensing process as well as other DMV services. The bilingual navigators aided Spanish speaking customers at each stage of their visit by facilitating an ease in service and interpreting customer-staff interactions. As a result of this effort, 4,944 LEP/NEP customers were served, making the highly successful pilot a model for other high-traffic agencies to consider.
“We understand that choosing to access a government service can be incredibly intimidating to many immigrant populations based on personal experiences that may have led many to seek refuge here” said OHR Director Mónica Palacio. “Our goal as a program remains to support agencies in promoting a culture of inclusion, accessibility and thoughtful customer service that dispels this notion and offers LEP/NEP customers’ faith in our ability to serve them. We must continue to send this message to our immigrant communities that they belong and are an integral part of our city –and hope that the strength of this message reverberates in every corner of the District and of this country. “
For detailed assessment information for all 38 District agencies and to download the report, visit ohr.dc.gov/page/languageaccess/2016report.
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.