On April 21, 2004, the Language Access Act (LAA) was signed into law. The central purpose of the LAA is to provide equal access and participation to public services, programs and activities for residents of the District of Columbia who are Limited or Non-English proficient.
Since then, OLA's Language Access and Advocacy Program (LAAP) has provided technical support to DC government agencies covered by the law. By doing so, OLA has advocated to ensure that culturally and linguistically competent city services are delivered to the Spanish-speaking residents of the District.
OLA has also proactively collaborated with the Office of Human Rights (OHR), broadened its working relationship with the Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs (OAPIA), and initiated a working relationship with the Office on African Affairs (OAA)—created in 2006, and staffed in 2007— to improve the level of coordination and sharing of knowledge among DC government offices charged with monitoring the implementation of the Act.
A product of this growing inter-office partnership has been the development and signing of a Memorandum of Understanding that delineates how each OHR, OLA, OAPIA, and now OAA will cooperate and consult on fundamental issues relevant to the effective implementation of the Act.
Latinos represent the largest population of individuals with Limited or non-English Proficiency living and working in the District, and are the largest group affected by how well DC government delivers on the promises of the new law. These promises include the translation of vital documents, the availability of oral language services, the hiring of bilingual public contact personnel, the training of DC employees in multicultural awareness, and the outreach efforts tailored to limited-English proficient members of our nation's capital.
The Act requires District agencies or “covered entities with major public contact” to establish and implement a
Biennial Language Access Plan and designate a Language Access Coordinator. Also, it mandates that the Office of Human Rights, in collaboration and consultation with the Office on Latino Affairs, the Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, and the Office on African Affairs assist and monitor DC government agencies, programs, and services in complying with the LAA.
To provide technical support for better implementation to the LAA.