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Sunday, October 16, 2022
Office of Language Access--15 Years of Doing Nothing
By Hawaii State Auditor @ 9:06 PM :: 1445 Views :: Hawaii State Government

Auditor’s Summary Audit of the Office of Language Access

Hawaii State Auditor Report No. 22-10, October, 2022 (excerpt)

…We found that OLA has done little of consequence to address the language access needs of limited English proficient persons or to ensure meaningful access to services, programs, and activities offered by state agencies and covered entities. OLA is not performing obligations required by its enabling statute, Chapter 321C, Hawai‘i Revised Statutes (HRS), that the Legislature clearly believed were necessary to address the language access needs of the state’s limited English proficient population. For example, OLA does not “provide oversight and central coordination to state agencies in their implementation of language access requirements” or “provide technical assistance to covered entities in their implementation” of the law.

Instead, we found an agency whose efforts to review and monitor language access plans, which should ensure that agencies have a process through which they will provide people who are limited English proficient meaningful access to services, programs, and activities, is nothing more than a paper exercise. When it created OLA, the Legislature delegated its policymaking authority to OLA, requiring the agency to promulgate administrative rules to provide the specific direction necessary to ensure meaningful access. Because OLA has not adopted administrative rules to, among other things, empower itself with the authority to approve or reject an agency’s language access plan, agencies can ignore OLA’s comments and recommendations about their respective plans – which our audit found is what agencies generally do. As a result, OLA characterizes its reviews of language access plans as “feedback” that it “hopes” agencies will take into account in the next update of their language access plans.

More akin to comments, these “reviews” do little – if anything – to ensure plans comply with the law. And, we found OLA has posted agencies’ language access plans that often are nothing more than a verbatim recitation of the factors listed in the statute that agencies must consider in developing their respective plans. Moreover, OLA posts language access plans “as is,” without any accompanying information. Posting these plans without any indication that they are current or have been approved by OLA provides little, if any, assurance that an agency has a reasonable plan to address the language access needs of limited English proficient persons who seek access to the agency’s services, programs, or activities. In addition, OLA’s Language Access Resource Center (LARC) is required by statute to maintain a publicly available roster of language interpreters and translators that includes each individual’s qualifications and credentials based on OLA guidelines and in consultation with the Language Access Advisory Council.

While OLA does maintain a roster of language interpreters and translators on its website, that roster does not include any OLA-approved qualifications and credentials as the statute directs. In fact, we found that applicants are not required to show proof of their qualifications and competency before they are added to the roster….

read … Full Report

CB: Why Hawaii’s Language Access Office Is Having Trouble ‘Fulfilling Its Mission’

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