Biden White House Briefings Will Have a Sign Language Interpreter After Trump Refused
Observe: The White House is making sign language interpretation an integral part of press conferences
For the first time in history, the White House will include an American sign language interpreter at all briefings, spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday.
"As part of this administration's accessibility and inclusion effort, starting today we will have an ASL, an American sign language interpreter, for our daily press conferences," said Psaki.
She continued, "The President is determined to build an America that is more inclusive, equitable, and accessible to every American, including Americans with disabilities and their families."
An ASL interpreter named Heather was present in the briefing on Monday and joined virtually.
The interpreters will be seen in the frame while the briefings will be broadcast on television and online, including the White House official website and social media accounts.
In a statement, the National Association of the Deaf said a September 2020 court order created the conditions for the decision.
As the Trump administration began holding novel coronavirus briefings on television in March 2020, the White House complied with demands from lawmakers, a federal agency for the disabled, and the country's oldest civil rights organization to provide on-screen sign language interpreters.
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The NAD sued the Trump administration for its refusal to provide ASL interpreters for COVID-19-related press conferences, which would have enabled the country's approximately 11.5 million hearing impaired people to receive information about the pandemic through interpreters .
"The White House's failure to provide ASL interpreters during Covid-19 briefings, including press conferences, is against the law," the lawsuit argued, according to CNN.
Marlee Matlin, an Oscar-winning actress who is deaf and who appeared in 2011 as a candidate for Trump's The Celebrity Apprentice, described his administration's failure to include ASL interpreters as "appalling".
"This is not a trivial request," said 54-year-old Matlin in an earlier interview with PEOPLE. "It's about the [Americans with Disabilities Act]. It's about the pandemic. You know very well ... you're depriving us of our ability to participate. It's unfathomable."
A court eventually ordered the White House to provide ASL interpreters for all COVID-19 briefings.
RELATED: "It's Unfathomable" Trump's COVID-19 Briefings Have No Sign Language Interpreters, Marlee Matlin Says
After the court ruling, the first interpreters appeared in the White House in November, according to NAD.
The NAD issued a statement this week praising the Joe Biden administration's decision to include ASL interpreters in all White House briefings.
"There is still a lot to be done, but this is a great day for inclusion and access for the deaf and hard of hearing," said the group.
ASL interpreters were also present in some parts of Biden's opening ceremonies. The promise of loyalty, for example, was recited by a Georgian firefighter who also interpreted the words in sign language.
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