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White House adds ASL interpreter to press briefings

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Posted at 11:04 PM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 23:04:05-05

As White House press secretary Jen Psaki assumed the briefing room dais for the fourth time since the start of Joe Biden’s presidency, she was being translated into American sign language by someone identified by Psaki as Heather.

As Psaki went through the administration’s talking points and taking questions from the media, Heather interpreted the briefing for those with hearing loss. On the White House’s official YouTube, Facebook and Periscope pages, Heather could be seen in a box signing the briefing virtually.

Psaki said that interpreting the briefings into ASL is part of the White House’s commitment to “building an America that is more inclusive, more just, and more accessible for every American, including Americans with disabilities and their families.”

“As a part of this administration's accessibility and inclusion efforts, starting today, we will have an ASL -- an American Sign Language -- interpreter for our daily press briefings,” Psaki said at the onset of Monday’s briefing.

Psaki said on the first day Biden took office that she plans on holding briefings every weekday.

The National Association of the Deaf, which previously sued the Trump administration in an attempt to force the White House to translate briefings into ASL, was pleased with Monday’s announcement. By the time the National Association of the Deaf won its legal battle, Trump administration briefings became exceedingly rare.

The first time the Trump administration employed an ASL interpreter for a briefing was Nov. 13, nearly a week after Biden was declared the winner in the presidential election.

“The NAD challenged the Trump White House's refusal to provide ASL interpreters for any COVID-19 related press briefings. In August, we argued the case. In September, we won, with the court ordering the White House to provide ASL interpreters at all COVID-19 related press briefings. In November, the first ASL interpreters appeared - a historic moment,” the association said on its Facebook page.

“There is more work to be done, but this is a great day for inclusion and access for the deaf and hard of hearing community,” the National Association of the Deaf added.