Smart Ass Cripple: Speaking Up for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

On January 25, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced that, henceforth, all Biden Administration press briefings would include an American Sign Language interpreter so deaf people can…

On January 25, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced that, henceforth, all Biden Administration press briefings would include an American Sign Language interpreter so deaf people can more easily know what’s being 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,” Psaki said.

It’s good that NAD sued the White House, even if only to uphold the principle that deaf people have the same right as anyone else to be exposed to twisted distortions.

The National Association of the Deaf, in a statement on its website, called it “a great day for inclusion and access for the deaf and hard of hearing community.” It said the group, known as NAD, had “set the stage” for that to happen when it filed a lawsuit in federal court against the squatter who used to occupy the White House, because his administration’s press briefings did not include sign language interpreters.

In September, a federal judge ruled in NAD’s favor and ordered all these briefings to include an American Sign Language interpreter.

The lawsuit mandated that the governors of all fifty states include ASL interpreters in their briefings. But the squatter wasn’t the only one who had to be sued to make it happen. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has cultivated and cashed in big on his image as a pandemic hero, didn’t have sign language interpreters until after NAD sued him last spring.

In a way, the exclusion of deaf people from the squatter’s pandemic updates wasn’t entirely to their detriment. I, for one, didn’t hear any stories about deaf people drinking bleach (straight with no chaser) in an attempt to kill the coronavirus.

But that doesn’t matter. It’s good that NAD sued the White House, even if only to uphold the principle that deaf people have the same right as anyone else to be exposed to twisted distortions.

I also think it’s a shame that people who communicate via ASL didn’t have access to all of the squatter’s other press briefings, too. Again, they didn’t miss out on much useful information, but they did miss out on a lot of absurdist theater. They didn’t get to feel the full blast of the likes of Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders telling whopping tall tales and then, when challenged, throwing tantrums of feigned indignation.

And while deaf people can now listen in on White House daily press briefings, some things will stay the same. White House press secretaries are dispatched to say what the President wants us to hear. They take a sworn oath to preserve and protect whatever the President says and does, so help them God.   

But, in the Biden Administration, there’s at least a chance that what the current President says, unlike the squatter, will sometimes be compatible with the truth. Maybe now, in sticking up for the guy on top, the press secretaries won’t have to go through such elaborate contortions.


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