Local diversity group leaders are praising the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles for offering automated driving tests in 11 different foreign languages at the Columbus branch.
The upgrade is a great step toward being more welcoming in Indiana, said Hanna Omar, of the Columbus Area Multi-Ethnic Organization, comprised of nine area ethnic associations that have joined to share cultures with each other and the Columbus community.
“This shows the amazing commitment to engage and incorporate the diverse communities of Indiana,” she said.
Vinay Swargan, president of the Indian Association of Columbus, said the upgrade is a good move.
“Quite a few people or their spouses and parents that come here don’t understand English and have to learn to drive,” Swargan said. “On the test, they have difficulty understanding the question, so even though they know the answer, they might not get it right.”
Columbus’ Bureau of Motor Vehicles is among the first Indiana locations to offer the new driving tests option.
The change is in response to requests from businesses, universities and advocacy groups, said Don Snemis, commissioner of the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
“Consistent with the vision of Gov. Pence and Lt. Gov. Ellspermann to bring international jobs to Indiana, and their trade missions around the world, Indiana has become an attractive option for foreign business,” Snemis said. “In addition, Indiana has one of the largest foreign student populations in the country thanks to our outstanding institutions of higher learning.”
The change is being phased in statewide over the next few weeks, but the equipment in Columbus has already been modified, said Josh Gillespie, deputy commissioner of communications for the bureau.
“The diversity in that community is one of the reasons that Columbus is part of the early phase-ins,” Gillespie said. “We currently have about 72 branches with the auto test terminals and touch screens and we will eventually be implementing it into all of the branches with that equipment.”
The first phase of implementation was in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne. The second phase, which was Thursday, included installation at six additional branch offices, including Columbus.
The Operator Knowledge Tests on the automated testing stations have been translated into 11 foreign languages, including Japanese, German, Simplified Chinese and Spanish.
The choice of translations was based on an Indiana Department of Education list of the primary languages, other than English, spoken in households statewide.
Other languages available for the knowledge test include Arabic, Burmese, Chin, Korean, Punjabi, Russian and Vietnamese.
Jon Mills, director of external communications for Cummins Inc., said the initiative recognizes the wide range of cultures represented in Indiana benefits the entire state.
“We appreciate everything that Indiana does to makes the Hoosier State a more welcoming place, and we appreciate the diversity we now have,” Mills said.
The transition is expected to be completed at all testing stations that have the capability by mid-August, and the bureau will post the list where the service is available on its website then.
Gillespie said the state is also working to upgrade the testing stations that don’t have touch-screen capability, which will include adding the foreign language option.