Politics

An ASL Interpreter Will Now Be At White House Press Briefings

Advocates have pushed to make key information about matters including the deadly COVID-19 outbreak more accessible.

Press secretary Jen Psaki and an interpreter, Heather, appear at a briefing on January 25. | YouTube/ White House
Press secretary Jen Psaki and an interpreter, Heather, appear at a briefing on January 25. | YouTube/ White House

An American Sign Language interpreter will now appear at regular White House press briefings. Press secretary Jen Psaki’s announcement on Monday of the move attracted praise, after advocates pushed last year to make key information about matters including the deadly COVID-19 outbreak more accessible to people with differing abilities. 

"The president is committed to building an America that is more inclusive, more just and more accessible for every American," Psaki said.

Psaki on Monday also introduced the interpreter, Heather, who she said was joining virtually. 
 

Last year, deaf community members pushed for an interpreter at COVID-19 briefings, and a national advocacy group, along with a group of Americans, later sued the White House over the issue. A judge ordered the White House to include an interpreter at “any press conference on coronavirus-related matters” featuring top administration officials including former President Donald Trump and former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany last fall, NBC News reported. (The Trump administration significantly reduced its COVID-19 briefings toward the end of his term, especially during and after election season.)

People can view Biden administration briefings with an interpreter on the White House’s website and social media accounts.

“There is more work to be done, but this is a great day for inclusion and access for the Deaf community,” attorney Ian S. Hoffman, who represented the National Association of the Deaf in a suit against the White House last year, wrote on Twitter.

During President Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, the decision to include an ASL interpreter during the Pledge of Allegiance also drew recognition as a meaningful step toward inclusion.

Other government officials including Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) have introduced ASL interpreters to coronavirus press briefings following a court order

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