The White House is adding a sign language interpreter to press briefings in an effort to be more inclusive

Erin Snodgrass
·3 min read
White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
  • The White House will include an ASL interpreter at all press briefings moving forward.

  • Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the move was an effort to be more inclusive and accessible.

  • Last August, the National Association of the Deaf sued the Trump Administration for failing to provide an ASL interpreter.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced Monday that the Biden Administration's daily press briefings will include an American Sign Language interpreter as part of the team's accessibility and inclusion efforts.

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

Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf, told Insider that his organization was gratified to witness history in the making.

"Deaf and hard of hearing Americans deserve the same access to information from the White House and the President that everyone else gets," Rosenblum said.

This marks a change from the previous administration, which held sporadic press briefings and did not include an interpreter for a majority of President Donald Trump's term, according to the Associated Press.

In August of 2020, the National Association of the Deaf, along with five individuals, sued Trump and former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, for failing to provide an interpreter during COVID-19 briefings, which they argued hindered the ability of deaf and hard of hearing Americans to learn necessary information during the pandemic.

Rosenblum said even though captioning is typically available during live broadcasts on network television, the live captioning of press briefings is often not accurate enough, especially for people whose primary language is ASL.

In September, a federal judge ordered the administration to provide an ASL interpretation for all televised briefings regarding coronavirus, according to the AP.

"Evidently, the Biden-Harris Administration was watching the lawsuit," Rosenblum said. "Their willingness to provide ASL interpreters at all press briefings should now be the standard for accessibility going forward for all presidential administrations."

This isn't the Biden Administration's first effort toward increasing accessibility. Last week, Georgia firefighter Andrea Hall made history by using ASL to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at Biden's inauguration, marking the first signing of the allegiance at any presidential inauguration, according to The Hill.

But Rosenblum urged that the work isn't done. He said the White House's streaming video with the ASL interpreters must also have professional and accurate captioning to be truly inclusive for all segments of the deaf community. As of Tuesday, the White House had added captioning in addition to the interpreter, according to Rosenblum.

"We now need the TV networks to carry the ASL interpreter on their broadcasts, which are already captioned, so that every deaf and hard of hearing person can understand the press briefings," Rosenblum said. "So that the message is more accessible to all including those who do not have high-speed Internet.

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