Best & Worst States for ASL Access to Governors’ COVID-19 Press Briefings

During the pandemic, each state’s governor hosted COVID-19 press briefings and provided American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters. The provision of qualified ASL interpreters in such briefings is critically important for many deaf and hard of hearing people who may not truly understand from captioning showing written English the complex and urgent information that are shared during disasters and other crises. However, it is important to note that having qualified ASL interpreters in these briefings requires more than just planting an interpreter on screen and hoping for the best. Intentional planning is necessary to ensure the optimal use of qualified ASL interpreters during these crucial press briefings.

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD), through its Policy Institute, examined how each state handled providing sign language interpreters during these press briefings during March 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020. This included whether ASL interpreters were provided and also looking at the clarity and visibility of the interpreters. The result is a ranking of all 50 states on how each of them handled interpreter access during official state government COVID-19 press briefings. There are also two kinds of special recognition with different symbols for each. The β€œπŸ€Ÿβ€ symbol is used to indicate which states used deaf interpreters, with the number reflecting frequency (one = 25-59%, two = 60-89%, and three = 90-100%). The star symbol () was awarded to North Dakota for being the only state to provide an interpreter in person when not using a visual aid and through PIP when visual aids were used. This innovative approach ensured that the interpreter was clearly visible at all times.

[Updated August 15, 2022]

1. Arkansas21. Wyoming41. Wisconsin 🀟🀟🀟
2. Nevada22. Washington 🀟🀟🀟42. Idaho 🀟🀟
3. Maryland 🀟🀟🀟(tie)23. Iowa43. Colorado 🀟🀟
3. Virginia (tie)24. Arizona 🀟44. New Jersey 🀟🀟🀟
5. Massachusetts 🀟🀟🀟25. Utah 🀟45. New Mexico 🀟
6. Michigan26. California 🀟46. Alaska 🀟
7. New Hampshire 🀟🀟🀟27. North Carolina47. Minnesota 🀟🀟🀟
8. Hawaii 28. Texas48. New York 🀟🀟🀟
9. Louisiana 29. Rhode Island 🀟🀟🀟49. Montana
10. Pennsylvania 🀟🀟🀟30. Vermont 🀟🀟50. Florida
11. South Carolina31. West Virginia
12. Illinois32. Georgia 🀟🀟🀟
13. South Dakota33. Indiana
14. Kansas34. Oklahoma 🀟🀟🀟
15. Missouri35. Mississippi
16. Maine 🀟🀟🀟36. Delaware
17. North Dakota 37. Nebraska
18. Tennessee38. Ohio 🀟🀟🀟
19. Oregon 🀟🀟🀟39. Connecticut
20. Kentucky40. Alabama

The report has further details on how the NAD Policy Institute determined the ranking for each state, and a list of best practices are provided here. Please share this report with your state governor’s office to ensure that they incorporate these best practices into their planning. The main takeaway from the report is that as a best practice, governors’ offices need to always provide a qualified interpreter for their emergency briefings and ensure full visibility (whether in-person or via PIP) through appropriate placement, sizing, lighting, camera angle, and depth. This requires advance planning by all states’ governors, their staff, and the media team working with the governors’ offices to achieve full accessibility for all deaf and hard of hearing people in their respective states.