On the fifth day of its operation, the Biden administration announced that it is adding a sign language interpreter to its daily press briefings — specifically, an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced the move during today’s briefing. An interpreter could be seen on the White House’s YouTube stream of the event, as the Associated Press noted in its write-up of the announcement.
During the briefing, Psaki said President Joe Biden “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.” This marks a shift from the approach of the Trump administration, which had only sporadic press briefings and didn’t include an interpreter until late in President Donald Trump’s term.
In August 2020, the National Association of the Deaf joined five Deaf individuals in suing Trump and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, claiming that the White House’s failure to provide an interpreter undermined the ability of Deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans to access key information about COVID-19.
The next month, a federal judge ordered the White House to include ASL interpretation at all televised briefings on the virus. The order was issued by US District Judge James Boasberg, and according to the ruling, the White House and plaintiffs “largely agreed on all terms” to resolve the matter. The ruling stated that the ASL interpreter could be in the frame physically near the speaker or off-site. It noted the White House was required to make the interpreter feeds accessible online and on television using a picture-in-picture format.
ASL interpreting is on the rise as a career in the United States. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is currently high demand for ASL interpreters, and demand will continue to grow by about 19% into 2028.