INDIANAPOLIS – The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit Friday against the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles on behalf of a South Bend non-profit organization, Neighbor to Neighbor, Inc. The lawsuit claims that the BMV’s failure to provide the Indiana Driver’s Manual in any language other than English constitutes discrimination on the basis of a person’s national origin.
For an individual to obtain a new driver’s license in Indiana, they must first take a written “knowledge examination” and then pass a “driving skills exam.” The knowledge examination itself is offered in 14 different languages, while the Indiana Driver’s Manual on which the examination is based is offered exclusively in English.
Neighbor to Neighbor, Inc., a non-profit organization in South Bend, is dedicated to providing assistance to international refugees and other recent immigrants in the area. The organization works to fill the gaps left by the failure of the BMV, by helping individuals with limited English learn the Driver’s Manual material.
“There is no legitimate reason for the BMV to offer its ‘knowledge examination’ in fourteen different languages, but to only offer the Driver’s Manual on which that examination is based in English,” said Gavin M. Rose, ACLU of Indiana Senior Staff Attorney. “Learning material orally is no substitute for the ability to read, study, review and re-review the Driver’s Manual in a language that an immigrant to Indiana actually understands.”
Many community members must attempt to somehow learn the information tested on the exam in English, and may be required to take the “knowledge examination” six or eight times before passing if they are able to pass at all. The lawsuit alleges that the failure to offer the Driver’s Manual in any language other than English constitutes national-origin discrimination in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“The ability to drive is invaluable in an individual’s efforts to secure sustainable employment, obtain and maintain housing and community relationships, and to accomplish numerous other tasks such as visiting the library or going grocery shopping,” said Jane Henegar, executive director of ACLU of Indiana.