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Cuomo sued for not having sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings

Cuomo sued for not having sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings
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New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoRand Paul rips 'leftwing media' for focusing on COVID-19 cases: 'Mortality rates are plummeting' Trump aide accuses CNN's Chris Cuomo of breaking quarantine while COVID-19 positive in heated interview New York surpasses half a million COVID-19 cases MORE (D) was sued this week for not having American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters at his live coronavirus press briefings.

Disability Rights New York (DRNY) and four deaf residents filed the suit, arguing Cuomo is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by preventing deaf New Yorkers from obtaining the information shared during the health crisis.

Cuomo began holding the daily, televised briefings regarding the COVID-19 outbreak in his state around March 1. The conferences are typically broadcast on major news networks including ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.

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“Governor Cuomo’s briefing’s cover a wide range of topics including the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, the availability of testing, information about social distancing and other personal safety measures to be utilized by New Yorkers to stop the spread of the virus, and the coordination of local, state, and federal government emergency response systems,” the complaint states. “New York is the only state that has never provided televised in frame ASL interpretation of its COVID-19 briefings."

DRNY, an independent nonprofit corporation, received several complaints from deaf residents and requested an ASL interpreter be visible during all of Cuomo’s briefings on March 24.

Three days later, his office allegedly responded by saying his administration was providing closed-captioning on the governor’s website. A real-time ASL interpretation was provided beginning April 3.

However, the plaintiffs allege that the closed captioning is not available during the live television broadcast.

Deaf New Yorkers without internet access or those with limited English comprehension are therefore left without critical information.

“The closed-captioning frequently contained errors or omissions that make it difficult or impossible for individuals who are deaf to understand the information being provided in the briefings,” the complaint states.

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One plaintiff, 23-year-old Jill Wildberger, was not able to understand the closed captioning online and found that the live ASL interpreter was frequently not available. As a result, she initially was not aware of Cuomo’s executive order requiring New Yorkers to wear a face mask.

The lawsuit requests that a judge immediately issue a temporary restraining order to prevent the governor from hosting live, televised briefings without an ASL interpreter in frame.

The plaintiffs are requesting they be compensated for attorney fees, as well as be provided other relief “deemed just and proper.”

The Hill has reached out to Cuomo’s office for comment.

According to the 2014 census, there are approximately 208,000 people who are deaf or hard of hearing in New York City. The lawsuit notes that Rochester is home to the largest deaf population per capita in the United States, with about 90,000 people who are deaf or hard of hearing living in the metropolitan area.