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Drivers Test Translation Lawsuit Settled by HDOT

May 29, 2015, 1:52 PM HST (Updated May 29, 2015, 4:04 PM)
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A lawsuit between the Hawai’i Department of Transportation and the non-profit organization Faith Action for Community Equity regarding the language translation of driver’s examinations that are required for Hawai’i residents to obtain a license has been settled.

The two parties jointly announced the settlement Thursday.

In September 2013, FACE filed a federal lawsuit alleging that HDOT discriminated against foreign-born residents of Hawai’i by not offering a translated exam for more than five years after translations previously available were removed from service.

HDOT disputed throughout the case, as well as in the settlement, that there was any discriminatory motive that went into the decision making about the exams.

“HDOT and our employees have always been committed to serving all of Hawai’i’s residents, regardless of who they are or where they are from,” said HDPT Director Ford Fuchigami. “We are proud of our current language access program and are dedicated to a positive and proactive approach to language access and will continue to look at additional ways to ensure that those with limited English skills can safely drive on our roads.”

“HDOT is committed to ensuring all drivers have the knowledge and skills to drive safely on Hawai’i’s roads,” said Director Fuchigami.

There are currently 13 languages that the exams are translated into, making Hawai’i the only state that has fewer than two million people and offers the exam in more than 10 languages. Hawai’i is also the only state to offer the exam in a native language, Hawaiian.

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FACE officials are pleased with the outcome and the commitment to keep translations in place over the long-term.

“This resolution is an answer to our prayers,” said FACE organizer Reverend Tasha Kama, a minister at Christian Ministry Church in Wailuku. “It takes all of our families – local and immigrant – to make Hawai’i work. The more languages and cultures included in our policies, the stronger we are as a state. We appreciate the opportunity to work closely with the Hawai’i DOT to further language access for all our people.”

The settlement was approved by United States District Court Judge Susan Oki Mollway.

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