There are over 39,000 Limited English Proficient (LEP) individuals in the District, and a large Deaf population as well, and they face major language barriers in accessing our legal system.  Despite this great need for language assistance, many legal services programs do not have bilingual staff to handle all or even some of the language needs of the LEP community, and do not know where to turn for sign language assistance.

LEP and Deaf residents need interpreter services at all stages of the legal process including initial consultations, phone interviews, meetings with attorneys, fact investigations, depositions and trials. Yet there is a scarcity of interpreters trained to provide services in a legal context, leaving many LEP and Deaf individuals to fend for themselves, or to rely on an unqualified friend or family member (including children) to interpret. The use of untrained people to serve as interpreters creates a false sense of security that a conversation is being conveyed accurately.  In the legal system, where the accuracy of a statement is critical, interpretation mistakes can affect a lawyer’s assessment of a case or the credibility of a witness. 

Ayuda’s Program

In 2007, Ayuda launched The Community Legal Interpreter Bank. The Bank is an innovative partnership designed to solve the problem of the lack of trained, affordable legal interpreters in the DC legal services community . It is the first interpreter program in the US to provide professional training to interpreters targeted to the attorney-client relationship. The Bank identifies experienced interpreters and trains them in skills needed for legal interpretation in the attorney-client setting. Interpreters are then tested to ensure their competence in the fields of their language skills, understanding of the legal system, and adherence to ethical standards.

The Bank now serves 27 legal services providers and includes 100 legal interpreters that speak about 40 languages (including American Sign Language). The Interpreter Bank makes access to justice a reality for community members who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Limited English Proficient (LEP).


For more information, or to join the Bank as a provider or interpreter, please contact the Bank's Director or Program Coordinator.