OCO Requests Language Access for District?s Oromo Residents

Washington DC?The President of the Board of the Oromo Community of Washington DC, Dr. Desta Yebessa was among 75 witnesses who testified in support of At-Large DC Council Member Grosso?s Bill to expand language access to residents at a public hearing jointly convened by council members David Grosso, Kenyan McDuffie and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson on ?Language Access for Education Amendment Act of 2015.?The act was introduced by Council member Grosso on February 3, 2015.

Reflecting on the purpose of the hearing, David Steib, Eqs., Director of Language Access , said ?Yesterday was amazing! We shed a bright light on many of the ways in which the District government is failing to comply with the DC Language Access Act of 2004.?According to the statement released by the office of Council member At-Large David Grosso, the public hearing was organized to allow witnesses such as the Oromo Community Organization representative to share ?personal stories of barriers they have faced in accessing government agency and public education services due to the lack of language access.?

Dr. Desta Yebessa stepped up to the plate and shared the personal-communal testimony of the barriers faced by an estimated 10,000 Oromos living in the Washington DC metropolitan area in accessing the said government agency and public services due to the unavailability of services in Afan Oromo, the native language of Oromo immigrants, refugees and asylees?the majority of whom are non-proficient in English or Amharic.Despite the existence of Language Access Law since 2004, Dr. Yebessa explained to the council members the specific problems faced by the Oromo Community members who are non-proficient in English language in obtaining public services.

He testified , ??most Oromos residing in District of Columbia complained that they have encountered language access problems at D.C. government agencies as they attempt to access government benefits and services because (1) there is no Oromo assigned to interpret /or translate documents when Oromos are obtaining government services as required by the Language Access Act of 2004 (2) Some Oromos were unable to enroll their children in school because no one at the school spoke Oromo language, Afan Oromo. This inhibits self-empowerment and development in our Oromo community.?Dr. Desta Yabessa ended his testimony by requesting DC Council Committees to find a solution to the problems enumerated above and ?to assign trained Afaan Oromoo interpreters and translators of documents for Oromos seeking school and other public services.?For Afan Oromo speaking and others seeking service in their languages, the future seems to be bright in DC as seen from a thank you letter sent out to witnesses by the Language Access Director , David Steib who said , ?Council members Todd, Mendelson, Grosso, and McDuffie all came to hear what we had to say. I think that they all agreed that something has to be done.? reed that something has to be done.???To read the Testimony of Desta Yebassa ,Click here