EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

The objective of this audit was to determine whether the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) is complying with Local Law 25, which is intended to make City agencies, and ultimately the City as a whole, more accessible to foreign-born residents whose primary language is not English. Our audit of DCA is one in a series of audits we are conducting on the City’s compliance with Local Law 25.

Most City agencies have a significant presence on the internet and rely on agency websites to both provide information to and interact with the public. Accordingly, in 2016, Mayor de Blasio signed Local Law 25, amending the City’s Administrative Code in relation to residents’ ability to translate City Website to their desired language Local Law 25 requires that every website maintained by or on behalf of a City agency include a translation service enabling users to view the text of that website, wherever practicable, in languages other than English. It also requires that the translation service be identifiable in a manner that is comprehensible to speakers of the seven most commonly spoken languages in the City. As determined by the Department of City Planning, the seven most commonly spoken languages in New York City amongst residents with limited English proficiency are:

  1. Spanish
  2. Chinese (includes Cantonese, Mandarin, and Formosan)
  3. Russian
  4. Bengali
  5. French Créole (also called Haitian Créole)
  6. Korean
  7. Arabic[1]

Results

Our audit found that DCA generally complies with Local Law 25. DCA’s website, found at http://www1.nyc.gov/site/dca/index.page, includes a translation feature for viewing text and essential information in various languages, including the top seven noted languages. DCA’s website also provides important information regarding its functions and services. This includes but is not limited to information pertaining to DCA’s various divisions, office locations, contact information, free financial counseling services, consumer protections, tax preparation services, sidewalk café locations and information about how senior citizens and disabled residents can freeze rent. All this information and more can be translated and viewed in each of the top seven noted languages.In addition, DCA provides numerous documents and guides on its website, such as consumers’ complaint forms, workplace complaints forms, DCA license forms and guides to recognize consumer scams. According to DCA’s Language Access Plan March 2009 and Draft Language Access Plan 2018, DCA’s most frequently requested documents can be translated and downloaded into various languages including the seven most-requested languages (Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Bengali, Haitian Créole, Korean and Arabic)[2]. We reviewed and successfully translated the following essential documents and guides into DCA’s seven most requested languages:

 

  • Ready to Rent – Free Financial Counseling
  • Freeze Your Rent
  • Consumer Protection Tips for Immigrants
  • How Can the Office of Labor Policy & Standards Help You Today?
  • Workers Bill of Rights
  • Basic License Application (List of DCA License industries)
  • 10 Things Every Consumer Should Know
  • Protecting NYC’s Freelance Workers
  • Home Improvement Contractors and Salespersons
  • Commuter Benefits Participation Forms
  • Consumer Protection Tips for Older Adults
  • Tips on Scams

DCA provides translation and interpretation services at its main location in Manhattan at 42 Broadway, where DCA staff interacts with the general public. DCA also provides services at the Testing Station in Brooklyn and the NYC Small Business Support Center in Queens, where translation and interpretation services are also available.

In its response, DCA agreed with the report’s recommendation that the agency continue to maintain its compliance with Local Law 25 to ensure it effectively meets the needs of residents with limited English proficiency when accessing City services online. DOB stated that, “We appreciate your office acknowledging our efforts regarding language access on the DCA website. DCA will continue to comply with Local Law 25 in order to effectively meet the needs of New Yorkers with limited English proficiency when access City services online.”

[1] According to the DCP report, issued in March 2016, entitled Top Languages Spoken at Home by Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Universe: Population 5 Years and Over.

[2] City agencies determine which documents are key, essential, frequently used and translated on City websites in the top languages for its business purposes.