White House To Offer Accessibility with Sign Language Interpreter

By: Danielle Chazen

On the heels of President Biden’s decision to reverse the former administration’s ban on transgender troops in the military, The White House is further committing to inclusivity and diversity initiatives by providing a sign language interpreter at every press briefing.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced this week that an American Sign Language interpreter will be present at all press briefings. With important information being addressed at these press briefings, now all audiences with disabilities will be able to comprehend the news and information as it is released in real-time.

“As a part of this administration’s accessibility and inclusion efforts, starting today, we will have an ASL — an American Sign Language interpreter — for our daily press briefings,” she said. “The president 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,” she added.

This decision is monumental as it marks the first time a sign language interpreter will assist with the White House’s daily press briefings. ASL was also incorporated as the Pledge of Allegiance was said at President Biden’s inauguration. This moment also marked the first time the pledge had been signed at a presidential inauguration.

The administration also ensured live closed captioning, streamtext captions, Certified Deaf Interpreters and audio descriptions were provided for the inauguration to assist hard of hearing, deaf, blind, low vision and other viewers with disabilities.

The former administration provided ASL at COVID-19 briefings beginning in November following an order by a federal judge, but a daily briefing presence was non-existent.

More businesses and universities are committing to closed captioning and meeting WCAG 2.1 standards to assist all individuals who may benefit from them in workplaces, classrooms and while remote. There are also rulings in place by the ADA and FCC which require accommodations and accessibility measures to be provided.

Many viewers who do not depend on accessibility or assistive technologies, often find themselves choosing to use items like captioning to help with information retention, as a preference or when they’re not able to view videos with sound. Proactively offering viewers the option to select and utilize these tools not only helps to ensure equity for those who need them, but helps to enhance the viewing and listening experiences of all.

With many real-time, AI-based captioning and audio description tools available, all businesses, media production companies and school leaders can utilize these live services to reach greater audiences while also ensuring equity and access.