Sign Language and Disability Focus in the White House! 

While we may not be fully acclimated to the fleeting feelings of hope that come from reading positive disability news these days, there’s real cause for celebration in Monday’s announcement from White House press secretary Jen Psaki that sign language interpreting will now be present at all daily press briefings.

On YouTube, White House press secretary Jen Psaki, whose shoulder-length red hair is offset by a kelly green shirt, gives a press briefing in which a dark-haired, female sign language interpreter appears in the corner of the frame.
On YouTube, White House press secretary Jen Psaki, whose shoulder-
length red hair is offset by a green shirt, gives a press briefing in which
a dark-haired, female ASL interpreter appears in a corner of the frame.

The news follows a lawsuit brought against former president Donald Trump last September by the National Association of the Deaf, who said his administration kept vital information about the pandemic from reaching Deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans by not providing interpreting services at press briefings. A federal judge agreed, and ordered that an ASL interpreter be present at all virus-related briefings. Of course, true accessibility means that all information is available to everyone all the time, so we’re glad to see President Biden’s administration taking accessibility and inclusivity seriously. (Even if they might need to up their game when it comes to vetting ASL interpreters.)

In other accessibility news, Biden specifically addressed the needs of people with disabilities in his recent 200-page plan to focus on getting the pandemic under control, including getting the vaccine to more people, implementing broader mask requirements, and providing greater assistance to people living in residential care facilities as well as those who rely on home- and community-based services. “The explicit inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities [in President Biden’s vaccination plan] is the surest sign yet that we’re moving in the right direction,” the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR)’s Sean Luechtefeld said. Of course, as Julia Bascom of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) points out, “federal guidance alone will not suffice.” We, too, look forward to reading about what explicit support the administration will provide to states in order to get the vaccine as quickly as possible to the people who need it most.

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