On May 29, 2019, the District of Columbia Language Access Program, a division within the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights, released its annual Compliance Review. For the second year in a row, the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) received a perfect rating. Joseph L. Mangan, Language Access Coordinator, led OAH’s efforts to improve services to limited and non-English proficient (LEP/NEP) individuals.
In FY18, in the course of the administrative adjudication process, OAH provided services to LEP/NEP individuals in about 506 instances. The top three languages (other than English) OAH encountered in FY18 were Spanish, Amharic, and Mandarin. OAH relied upon bilingual staff members, court-certified in-house interpreters, and the District-wide vendor LanguageLine Solutions to provide interpretation and translation services. Interpretation services were provided at no cost to litigants throughout the adjudication process—from when a person visits the OAH Resource Center to when a hearing takes place in front of an administrative law judge.
OAH made several changes in its Language Access Program in FY18. OAH started a new process for documenting interactions between LEP/NEP customers and staff at the reception desk and resource center. OAH presented language access training tailored to front office staff and administrative law judges and required new employees to receive language access training within 30 days of their start dates. OAH also translated a newly designed customer service survey into Spanish.
The DC Language Access Act of 2004 requires all District agencies to provide LEP/NEP individuals access to government services. The Act removes any barriers LEP/NEP individuals may have previously faced in receiving services from the District.
In FY 2018, the District of Columbia was home to an incredibly diverse population, with close to 15 percent of residents foreign born (101,860 residents). A higher percent, almost 18 percent of residents, speak a language other than English at home. Furthermore, 33,765 foreign-born District residents, age 5 or older, are classified as LEP individuals.
The Compliance Review assessed District government agencies on their compliance with the Language Access Act. The Review was broken down into three categories: preparedness, accessibility, and quality. The Compliance Review noted that “OAH continues to demonstrate exceptional commitment to serving LEP/NEP customers.”
OAH’s commitment to providing high-quality language access underscores the agency’s mission to enhance the quality of life in the District by providing residents with a fair, efficient and effective system to manage and resolve administrative litigation arising under District of Columbia law.