Judge Orders White House to Provide ASL Interpreters

[Transcript provided below]

The federal court presiding over the NAD v. Trump lawsuit ordered that the White House must begin providing American Sign Language interpreters at all White House coronavirus briefings (view the opinion and order). 

“The National Association of the Deaf is pleased with the court’s decision, and that deaf and hard of hearing Americans across the country will soon gain access to the same information about the pandemic that their government is providing to everyone else,” said Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the NAD. 

Ian Hoffman, Arnold & Porter attorney representing the NAD and the individual plaintiffs in the case, noted, “By refusing to provide ASL interpreters, the White House shut hundreds of thousands of deaf people out of its coronavirus briefings.  That was illegal, and the court’s decision begins to right that wrong.  Deaf Americans deserve to know what is being said at the White House’s coronavirus briefings, and now they will.”  

TRANSCRIPT: This is an update regarding the NAD’s lawsuit against the White House. On September 9th, the federal court judge wrote a 25 page opinion which stated that the White House must provide American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters for all coronavirus related briefings. How the interpreters will be provided will be explained later. The opinion also stated that captioning and transcripts that are provided by the White House is not good enough, and recognized that English and ASL are two different languages. Captioning uses English while ASL is provided through interpreters. This means the White House must provide ASL interpreters. Captioning in English is not accessible for many deaf and hard of hearing people who use a different language, ASL. With their lives at risk due to the pandemic, it is important to provide the information in ASL  so that deaf and hard of hearing people have access to this information. The opinion also stated the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504, permits lawsuits against the White House. No one had tried to sue the Whtie House under Section 504 before. This court order means that from now on, whoever is President in the White House must follow Section 504. The White House doesn’t have to provide ASL Interpreters yet as the Judge ordered a “stay” which means the lawsuit is on hold until September 17th. On that day, attorneys from the White House and the NAD with Arnold & Porter, will meet to discuss how ASL interpreters will be included in the White House briefings. They  will discuss whether it’s done in person with the camera frame including the interpreter next to the speaker or through picture-in-picture (PIP). Whichever way it is done, the video will be shared with the TV networks. Right now the responsibility lies on the White House to provide ASL interpreters. After the meeting on September 17th, the Judge will issue a final order. This doesn’t mean the lawsuit is over. It depends how the White House will respond to the Judge’s order, they may accept or challenge it. We are not sure how they will respond and have to follow this through. We will share an update after September 17th. What’s important right now is that a federal judge agrees that the White House must provide ASL interpreters. We will continue to share updates. Thank you.