White House Press Briefings To Provide ASL Interpretation, Press Secretary Says

Daily White House press briefings will include an American Sign Language interpreter as part of the Biden administration’s accessibility and inclusion efforts, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced Monday.

Monday’s interpreter ― identified only as Heather ― joined the briefing virtually. President Joe Biden’s White House also offered an interpreter during at least one of last week’s briefings.

“The president is committed to building an America that is more inclusive, more just and is more accessible for every American, including Americans with disabilities and their families,” Psaki said Monday.

Viewers can watch the briefings with ASL interpretation live on the White House’s YouTube channel. 

Deaf advocates around the world praised Biden’s inauguration last week for providing real-time interpreters for the day’s festivities. Andrea Hall, a career firefighter from Georgia, recited the Pledge of Allegiance out loud and in ASL that day.

“Thank you, Captain Hall, for showing us that sign languages belong everywhere, even in the highest ceremonies of state,” tweeted Joseph Murray, president of the World Federation of the Deaf. “Her Pledge on #InaugurationDay shows #ASL is a part of American life and culture.”

More than 3.4 million Americans identify as deaf, and about 17 million report having “serious difficulty hearing,” according to a 2014 census survey of Americans with disabilities.

The National Association of the Deaf sued President Donald Trump’s administration in August for failing to provide real-time ASL interpretation during COVID-19 news briefings, stating that the omission violated the First Amendment and laws to protect Americans with disabilities.

A federal judge ruled in favor of the advocacy group for deaf Americans in September, ordering the Trump White House to provide an ASL interpreter during the public briefings about the pandemic.

Trump and members of his coronavirus task force provided frequent news briefings in the first months of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. But the public rundowns tapered off after Trump drew backlash for making unsubstantiated claims about the virus and potential treatments for it.

Watch Monday’s full White House press briefing below.

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