Issara Baumann, 202.942.6682
Lizzie Sorkin, 301.587.1788
Washington, DC, December 16, 2021 — The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and several deaf individuals have reached a settlement with the President of the United States and other White House officials to conclude a lawsuit over the Trump White House’s failure to provide American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters during press briefings related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The settlement follows a landmark court ruling in September 2020 that ordered the White House to provide interpreters for all such briefings. As a result, in November 2020, a White House press briefing was broadcast live with an ASL interpreter for the first time in history. Today, the NAD and the White House dismissed the lawsuit.
The settlement was reached in light of a new policy, adopted by the White House in April 2021, to provide ASL interpreters for all press briefings conducted by the President, Vice President, First Lady, Second Gentleman, or the White House Press Secretary. Most importantly, the policy is not limited to press briefings that address the coronavirus pandemic; it applies to all press briefings. The ASL interpreters can be viewed as part of the White House’s official broadcasts on wh.gov/live, and recorded versions of the briefings with interpreters can be viewed on the White House’s YouTube page. The policy—like the court’s order—also requires the White House to provide the video feed of the interpreter to the broadcast television networks, to enable them to include the interpreter in their live broadcasts as well.
“Our historic achievement last fall in obtaining a federal court order compelling the White House to provide ASL interpreters for coronavirus briefings is now bolstered by the current Administration’s new policy expanding this access to all press briefings. The Biden-Harris Administration is to be commended for setting a new bar for full communication access for all deaf and hard of hearing people in the country,” said Howard A. Rosenblum, Chief Executive Officer of NAD.
“For too long, the Trump White House shut deaf Americans out of its press briefings, including those about the coronavirus pandemic,” said Ian S. Hoffman, a partner at the law firm of Arnold & Porter who argued the case on behalf of the NAD. “The deaf community deserves access to all communications from the highest levels of their government, so we applaud the new White House policy and its commitment to provide ASL interpreters for all press briefings.”
Arnold & Porter, an international law firm dedicated to pro bono litigation and equal access issues, co-counseled with the NAD in representing the NAD and the deaf individuals: Carlton Strail, Graham Forsey, Debra Fleetwood, John Rivera Jr., and Corey Axelrod.
Ian S. Hoffman led the team at Arnold & Porter and argued the case in August 2020 before U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg, of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The Arnold & Porter team also included Nora Ellingsen and John “Jay” Swanson. Marc Charmatz and Howard A. Rosenblum from the NAD were also part of the legal effort.
About the National Association of the Deaf
The National Association of the Deaf (NAD), established in 1880, is the nation’s premier civil rights organization safeguarding the civil, human, and linguistics rights of 48 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the U.S., including hundreds of thousands whose primary language is American Sign Language (ASL).
About Arnold & Porter
Arnold & Porter is a law firm with a long history of fighting for equal access to justice through its pro bono efforts. In recent years, Arnold & Porter has represented deaf clients seeking access to legally required accommodations in a variety of contexts including federal prison, state supervised release programs, and homeless shelters. With nearly 1,000 lawyers practicing in 13 offices around the globe, Arnold & Porter serves clients across 40 distinct practice areas. The firm offers 100 years of renowned regulatory expertise, sophisticated litigation and transactional practices, and leading multidisciplinary offerings in the life sciences and financial services industries.