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White House ordered to have sign language interpreters during coronavirus briefings

Press conference of Donald Trump, President of United States of America
Photo: Dreamstime

On Wednesday, a federal judge has ordered the White House to provide sign language interpreters at public coronavirus briefings starting October 1.

The order means live video feeds available to TV networks will also now include American Sign Language interpretation, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled.

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and five plaintiffs sued the White House earlier this month, urging the administration to provide American sign language interpreters at COVID briefings. At that point, the court provided relief for the plaintiffs and hinted that the White House might have to comply.

“Closed captioning and transcripts may constitute a reasonable accommodation under some circumstances, but not here,” the court ruled in their Sept. 9 decision.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 11.5 million Americans have some degree of hearing disabilities.

“Sign language and accurate captioning are both essential and crucial to ensuring all deaf and hard of hearing people are well informed and are able to make better decisions on how to stay safe from the pandemic,” NAD CEO Howard A. Rosenblum said in a statement. “The judge’s order sets a great precedent to achieve this goal of full accessibility.”

Starting in October, the White House will be required to show ASL interpreters on-screen at all briefings held by Trump and other top officials at COVID briefings, according to Judge Boasberg’s preliminary injunction order.

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