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Live translation option at Georgia Department of Driver Services removes barrier to driving
Dari speaking Afghan women able to take the permit test, thanks to live translator option at GDDS.
285 South accompanied two women, originally from Afghanistan, who took and passed their driving permit tests in April, with the support of a Dari translator set up by the Georgia Department of Driver Services (GDDS).
"My hope is that I would be able to go to my doctor's appointment by myself and I could get groceries," said Aisha Amani, as she waited in line for a ticket number at GDDS’s Norcross location. She moved to Atlanta in February of 2022 from Kabul, and now lives in Loganville, where public transportation is virtually nonexistent.
Aisha, along with another woman from Afghanistan who didn’t want to be named for safety reasons, recently learned about the translator option through a 285 South report about barriers to driving many refugees and immigrants face in Metro Atlanta.
“I’m really happy [that] finally someone can help us…it was big news …they [students] are all very excited,” said Meena Khodayar, a driving permit teacher with the Refugee Women’s Network. She’s been helping prepare Dari speaking Afghan women to take the permit test in English, via a one hour zoom class five days a week. But after learning about the live translator option, she said there’s less of a need for the class. “Because we have an interpreter, it's way easier for them. Because they already know everything, they just need someone to translate it for them.”
Currently, GDDS does not offer the option to take the test in Dari (though it plans to eventually). It also doesn’t offer it in Ukrainian. For the hundreds of Afghans and Ukrainians who have arrived in Atlanta within the last two years, having a live translator support with the permit test removes a major barrier to their mobility in Atlanta.
But the information about the translator option is difficult to find on the GDDS website or in any of its public communications.
“They need to visit the DDS Center where they’d like to test at and request to arrange an appointment for a translator and the Team will fill out the necessary paperwork and schedule the appointment for them,” said a GDDS spokesperson. “The middle of the week during the middle of the day is the best time to visit,” she added.
In 2022, GDDS received at least 75 requests for live translators, of which a minimum of five were for Dari translators.
Shaista Amani, Aisha’s daughter, never realized a live translator was an option until 285 South’s reporting on the issue. Once she established contact with the relevant person at GDDS, the process to set it up was relatively straightforward. That GDDS employee coordinated with the manager of the Norcross branch to set up the Dari translator for the women.
So far, Shaista has brought eight women in to take their permit tests with the support of a Dari translator at the Norcross location. They’ve all passed.
Her mother has been ready to take the test for awhile. “She knows all the rules…the road signs. She has memorized it like she's reading the Holy Quran,” she said laughing.
In Kabul, Aisha, a single mother, lived alone in an apartment and was self sufficient, moving around the city in buses or taxis. “She never asked anyone for help,” said Shaista. “In Afghanistan, she was doing everything by herself. But there the bus routes were very easy to catch, and the taxis were very cheap, and she spoke the language.”
Since Aisha’s been in Georgia, she’s been mostly at home, taking care of her grandson or cooking. She’s grateful for the peace and safety here, but wants to feel more independent. “Gwinnett County is very bad with public transportation,” said Shaista. “The grocery shops are not at a walking distance. She can’t walk to the doctor’s [office].”
“I’m not used to getting help,” said Aisha in Dari, with her daughter interpreting for her. “In Kabul I was so independent, that’s why I don’t like to be dependent on someone else here.”
When Aisha emerged from the permit test booth in Norcross, she had a serene, proud look on her face. “It was easy,” she said.
UPDATE: On August 28th, 2023, a Georgia Department of Driver Services spokesperson told 285 South that the permit test began to be offered in Dari in July 2023.
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