White House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings

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A major organization representing deaf Americans and a group of deaf individuals are suing the White House over the lack of a sign language interpreter at the administration’s COVID-19 briefings.

CNN first reported the lawsuit, which was filed in district court in Washington, D.C., and accuses the Trump administration of a First Amendment violation. Plaintiffs argue that the captions carried on video of the events lack details that would be conveyed by a sign language interpreter.

“Tone is also often lost in written captions. By contrast, an interpreter is able to convey tone and context of a message through facial expressions, sign choice, and demeanor,” the lawsuit reads, according to CNN. “Further, the provision of live closed captioning frequently contains errors and omissions that make it difficult or impossible for [deaf and hard of hearing] individuals to understand the information being provided in the briefings, particularly if they are not fluent in English.”

President Trump, the lawsuit continues, “stands alone in holding televised briefings regarding the Covid-19 pandemic without ever having provided any ASL interpretation. This means that not only are [deaf and hard of hearing] Americans being denied the opportunity to understand any communication from the President of the United States during this critical time, they are also being denied the opportunity to access information, analysis, and updates from Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx–two renowned public health experts.”

The White House did not immediately return a request for comment from The Hill on the lawsuit, which was filed by the National Association of the Deaf and five deaf Americans.

Trump resumed daily coronavirus briefings in July. They were ended earlier this year after the president was widely criticized for unscientific suggestions he made at the briefings, including injecting bleach into the body to kill the virus.

“I think it’s a great way to get information out to the public as to where we are with the vaccine, with the therapeutics, and generally speaking where we are,” Trump said of the daily press conferences in July.

Tags American Sign Language Anthony Fauci Coronavirus COVID-19 Deaf and hard of hearing Donald Trump
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