Brainstorming Potential Solutions in the Design for Justice Class: Language Access (Week 3)
By Sahil Chopra
Having experienced the court first hand, we returned to the classroom to revisit the tenets of Design Thinking and coalesce our thoughts, before engaging in a productive, rapid-brainstorming session.
Here’s a quick reminder of 5 “tenets” behind the design philosophies that drove our brainstorming:
- There is no “one perfect idea”. In fact, it is quite limiting to focus on “quality” ideas, i.e. those that seem practical or reasonable. In this initial phase of brainstorming, you should let your imagination roam free. You might be surprised by the ways you can turn an unreasonable idea into a truly impactful one.
- Don’t judge others. You can only be truly collaborative and helpful if you reserve judgement upon others’ ideas. Don’t analyze. Don’t constrain. Don’t judge.
- Be concise and specific. Yes, we all want to help provide language access to millions of Californians; but ideas won’t get us all the way there. In order to brainstorm effectively, you have to think “physical”, i.e. what could you make or build in an ideal world. Don’t think in abstractions but realities.
- Always respond to ideas with the phrase “yes and”. Saying “no” and “yes but” are conversation killers. Even if you don’t totally agree with an idea, embrace it and try to add your own spin to it, building upon it by saying “yes and”.
- Go for wild, ambitious, and impossible. Think big! We can always scale back later.
With these principles in mind, we drew upon our observations of the prior week to develop a list of current positives and negatives with language access at the court. We then brainstormed a list of potential successes and pitfalls, we might face while trying to improve language access.
- Empathy: Sitting in on family court trials and observing the interactions between court staff and clients, it was apparent that those who work at the courthouse truly care. They are overwhelmed and understaffed, but they truly believe in the work and are trying their best to service the hundreds of clients that walk through the door each day.
- Pathfinding: Signage was plentiful, though it could be improved by providing multilingual queues. The docket system, hosted on the large vertical flat screens, was especially useful in orienting oneself as they entered the courthouse.
- Form Accessibility: It’s often difficult to know what pieces of ancillary information are needed to fill out the form, which sections pertain to you personally, etc. There are workshops to help people fill out the forms, but they are understaffed; and the videos shown as part of the divorce workshop we observed weren’t entirely helpful, as they did not actually walk through the forms themselves.
- Waiting: People line up in the self-help queue starting at 7:00 am, even though the service starts helping individuals at 9:00 am. The wait times are long.
- Language: Many people who don’t speak English bring translators, but these must be 18+-year-olds; and involving someone else in the legal process implies that translator must also leave work, skip school, etc.
Future Positives (Ideas)
- Real-Time Translation
- Human-Oriented Experiences
- Space Optimization (Court House)
- Efficiency (Simplify Forms, Reduce Lines, etc.)
Future Negatives (Considerations)
- Budget Cuts / Restrictions
- Buy-In: Unions, Staff, Judges, Clients
With these themes established, we brainstormed the following 10 ideas:
- Interactive Forms
- Concept: Make forms interactive on a website such that they become “choose-your-own-adventure.” Use simple questions written in the person’s native language to determine which portions of the form are necessary for the individual to actually fill out.
- Goal: This should make form-filling a more accessible and personalized experience. Hopefully, this makes the process for filing easier and less intimidating.
- Multilingual FAQs
- Concept: Update the court’s website with FAQs in various languages. Prospective users could read these FAQs for their specific problem before coming to the court itself, so that they have a better understanding of the court process for their issue before coming in. Similarly, these could be provided to those in the self-help line to read before they are served.
- Goal: This will improve understanding of the court processes in order to empower individuals with a sense of control.
- Multilingual Court Navigation Instructions
- Concept: Create an app or website, with top 5 languages spoken by LEP court users, that explains court layout, functions and services at each office, and language support services.
- Goal: The user can find answers to common questions on their phone and use it to navigate the courthouse and its services. This will save headaches about what they need to do to get from Point A to point B, both in terms of navigating the courthouse and its services and help customers more easily address their legal needs.
- Online Multilingual Workshop Videos
- Concept: Provide client with multilingual YouTube videos explaining the mechanics of different common problems (e.g. divorce) that people go to the court to address.
- Goal: Right now the videos are only in English and only viewable in the workshop. This poses double issues for accessibility of content. Multilingual YouTube videos may reduce the burden on the workshop staff and provide a better, informative experience to non-native speakers.
- Chunk Workshop Video Into Sections
- Concept: Split workshop videos into chunks rather than the current 45-minute video. Also, integrate the form-filling within the video watching experience. Rather than a presentation, the workshop videos should directly help the users fill out the necessary and related components of their paperwork.
- Goal: Currently, the videos are an information overload. Many definitions are not listed on the slides. Viewers cannot rewind the video in the workshop. And the video does not directly correspond to sections of the forms that the users have to fill out. Eliminate all these problems by providing information in nugget-sized-proportions and tightly coupling this video experience with the forms.
- NLT for Court Forms
- Concept: Integrate the web forms with Google Translate, or some other legal translation software.
- Goal: All forms must be submitted in English according to California State Law. Even if the forms are presented in Spanish, the user must respond in English — which poses a huge barrier without an interpreter. Instead, bring Natural Language Translation (NLT) systems to the user, so this form-filling process becomes much easier.
- Symbolic Signage at Court
- Concept: Replace English signs in help center with symbol-rich signs that are easier to understand and follow.
- Goal: Symbol-rich signs will be able to better direct court users to get the forms they need and access the services they require. This will improve the physical experience of navigating the courthouse.
- Brochure Placement
- Concept: Redesign help center brochures to be color coded according to languages and then placed in different sections of the room, according to language.
- Goal: By offering forms in both languages, court users can identify the right forms and will be able to understand them. They can then write their answers on the corresponding English language forms.
- Robotic Assistants
- Concept: Create mobile booths in different areas where people could lodge cases in their languages by speaking into a phone line which will then capture the information and translate it into English. The robotic booth will then print the documents which the user can scan and download through the mobile application.
- Goal: Reduce trauma and negative attitudes towards the court system by promoting privacy of individuals coming to court.
- Real Time Translation Services
- Concept: Have tablets and headphones available for rent upon court entrance that guide you in your respective language to where you need to go (with pictures) and act as real-time translators with court actors.
- Goal: Facilitate the processes of moving through the court and interacting with court personnel despite language barriers.
With these ideas in mind, we are going to spend next week whittling down these to five favorites, drawing out the ideas, and then interviewing individuals at the courthouse as to what they like and/or dislike about these potential solutions to language access problems.
These are very interesting ideas to implement as they improve access to justice and courts. Bashar H. Malkawi