White House provides ASL interpretation of president’s joint address for first time
The White House livestream of President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday evening included an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, the first time in history an administration has provided ASL interpretation for such an address.
Prior to his address on Wednesday, Biden announced on Twitter that the White House livestream would include ASL interpretation to make the speech “accessible for all Americans.”
To make tonight’s joint address accessible for all Americans, every White House livestream will have American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation for the first time in history. You can learn more about how to tune in here: https://t.co/0MicNU8f7S
— President Biden (@POTUS) April 28, 2021
The White House stream featured a small box on the right side of the screen, next to a video of Biden delivering his remarks.
Another presidential first tonight: the @WhiteHouse has a livestream for the #JointAddress that features an ASL interpreter and helpful commentary from the members of President Biden’s @Cabinet. pic.twitter.com/sii0saxP0w
— Matt Hill (@MattHill46) April 29, 2021
While it was not the first time a presidential address to Congress has been interpreted in ASL, Biden’s speech did mark the first time the White House has provided it, according to ABC News.
Howard A. Rosenblum, the chief executive of the National Association of the Deaf, praised the White House for the move.
“We commend the White House for taking steps to ensure accessibility for all who are watching, including deaf and hard of hearing people,” Rosenblum told ABC News.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced in January that an ASL interpreter would be a regular fixture at daily press briefings as part of the administration’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, including Americans with disabilities and their families,” Psaki said.
The White House began providing ASL interpretations during press briefings under the Trump administration in the fall after the National Association of the Deaf and five deaf Americans won a lawsuit. The plaintiffs claimed that the lack of an interpreter was a violation of First Amendment rights amid the coronavirus, because it restricted deaf and hard of hearing people from receiving vital information.