Monroe County residents who need a translator or interpreter when seeking services at the county clerk’s office or DMV will get free help under a new plan.
As of December 13 the county clerk's office provides free interpretation and translations in whatever language a person needs to receive services under the County Clerk’s jurisdiction. This includes the clerk’s downtown filing office and most transactions at the DMV.
It’s part of a collaboration with the Empire Justice Center and Legal Assistance of Western New York.
Marlene Cortes with Empire Justice Center says that an incident in April at the DMV office in Henrietta sparked the collaboration after a customer was denied services and told to come back with an interpreter.
“It was witnessed by one of our colleagues and they tried to help the person," she says.
Cortes says a similar incident happened months later. She believes that neither were intentional acts of discrimination.
“I don’t think it was an act of malice," she says. "It was just a lack of education, and also some misinterpretations.”
Monroe County Clerk Adam Bello says that the witness from Empire Justice Center contacted the clerk’s office.
“They were looking to work with us and we were looking to work with them on how we can make a better service available to residents here,” he says.
Agencies that receive federal funding are legally obligated to meet federal language access requirements under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. State agencies are also required to provide language access services under Executive Order 26 signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2011.
According to the clerk’s office, more than 100 thousand county residents speak languages other than English.