The Importance of the White House including an Interpreter for all Briefings

Kimberly Harrison | 2 February 2021 

It is great that the new administration in the White House has stepped forward and is being pro-active about including ASL interpreters at daily briefings, but this is not enough.  There are many issues that remain as to the access of the interpreters being provided. TV networks can choose if they want to provide the footage of the interpreter or not.  In the first week of this MSNBC was the only station doing so. The concern of TV networks not using the footage provided to them is separate from the inclusiveness of the new administration. This is an issue that needs to be advocated for with the Networks specifically. The videos of the interpreters are typically not included in social media posts or on other forums, which is another hurdle to overcome.

In some instances currently and prior to the use of interpreters the primary alternative available was closed captioning.  TV networks and the community at large need to understand this is not comparable to having an interpreter available. However, when you really get down to this they are writing the English in closed captioning, that is not what the deaf community uses as their first language and it is not full communication.  You are providing an alternative in someone’s second language, not their native language. There is so much more to ASL than turning a spoken word into a hand gesture or symbol. Think of everything that we are learning in this course that would be left out if there was no video available.

January 25, 2021 is a monumental day in American history for the Deaf culture, but we are not where we need to be and the fight to provide true acceptance of the Deaf culture into our Country has not been done. We need legislation from this administration to make the changes that they are actively participating in to be present past just the next four years. To leave something as great as someone’s ability to communicate and know what is going on in their country and state to an individuals decision on how they want to handle the topic is irresponsible. The previous administration fought against providing an interpreter and who knows how future administrations will act. This is not something to leave up to chance.  We have a President that wants to include the Deaf culture in our country we need to take full advantage of this and push for legislation and laws to ensure that the positive gains being made are here to stay.

Four years will go by before we know it, this is an opportunity that has not been available to the Deaf community in the past.  We ALL need to step forward and participate as the Deaf community advocates appropriately.  It is up to all of us to ensure that the language barrier of the deaf and hard of hearing is not looked at any differently than any other language barrier in this country.  These are Americans too, and they deserve to have every communication that the hearing world has from their leaders that are representing them. This is a time to help all Americans feel included in what our Government is doing at the highest levels, and every level below that as well.

References:

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, January 25, 2021 (https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2021/01/25/press-briefing-by-press-secretary-jen-psaki-january-25-2021/)

NAD Applauds ASL Access at All White House Briefings (https://www.nad.org/2021/02/01/nad-applauds-asl-access-at-all-white-house-briefings/)

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