In a bit to increase government accessibility, Philadelphia’s Office of Innovation and Technology (OIT) and the Office of Immigrant Affairs (OIA) have launched the Translation Services Expansion project.

According to the city, the project is Philadelphia’s latest effort to improve language access on its website,, with Spanish and Chinese translations now available. The city confirmed that seven additional languages will be added later this year, including Arabic, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili, and Vietnamese.

“Ensuring fair and equal language access for immigrants and non-English speakers has always been a priority for this administration. It is an essential part of providing meaningful and quality service to all Philadelphians, especially, as one of the most diverse cities in the nation,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “This commitment has made Philadelphia a leader in bridging the language access gap and overcoming equity barriers. I am proud of the progress we have made and excited to take another step forward in our efforts to be the best and most welcoming place to live.”

The Translation Services Expansion project is in part funded by the Operations Transformation Fund (OTF), which provides funds for city initiatives prioritizing equity and accessibility. The project follows the recent release of the Language Service Usage Dashboard, which is an interactive tool that illustrates the preferred language services used by residents when accessing city programs. The city said that the dashboard is “an important milestone in the city’s efforts to understand the language landscape in Philadelphia.”

“We want to make sure Philadelphians who are non-English speakers can easily access our City services, programs, and any information they need as residents,” said Tumar Alexander, Managing Director for the City of Philadelphia. “The expansion will help us deliver on our commitment to become more inclusive and help our immigrant communities make Philadelphia their home.”

To roll out the new translation capabilities, OIT worked closely with OIA and linguists from a translation vendor to identify a translation method using a combination of digital tools and resident feedback. New features on the site include a new language navigation bar and will streamline the request for translation to the city’s language access providers. The city said that this work will result in higher quality and a more consistent translation than with the free version of Google Translate.

“The new features streamline the request for translation to the City’s language access providers, allowing for quality upgrades or revisions directly from the vendor,” says Karissa Demi, director of software engineering for the Office of Innovation and Technology. “This project enables content creators on to automatically have a large majority of their content translated with no additional effort on their part, saving the city time and money in posting translations for digital content.”

As part of the pre-work done to translate the website, OIA conducted focus groups at local libraries and engaged Engligh-as-a-second language learners, university scholars, newcomers to the city at Philadelphia’s Welcoming Center, nonprofit organizations such as Taller Puertorriqueño, the Northeast Philadelphia Chinese Association, First Haitian Church of God of Philadelphia, Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, and the African Family Health Health Organization (AFAHO), as well as other members of the public.

“More than delivering a translated website, this project is about an innovative process for website translation,” said Maria Giraldo Gallo, director of language access programs for the Office of Immigrant Affairs. “We set up systems that are receptive to the community’s input and that encourage continuous improvement, interoffice collaboration, and quality control for our translation providers.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs