OPINION: White House welcomes ASL interpreters


Photo credit/ Autumn Bohner

Under the Biden Administration, ASL interpreters are included within regular news briefings.

Victoria DeFrancis, Assistant Opinion Editor

A significant responsibility I had growing up as a hearing child with deaf parents was interpreting. If an interpreter was unavailable to schedule, I would be the understudy.
Interpreting for my parents throughout my life was difficult, I had the responsibility of being my parent’s voice. It was never a burden, but it was a lot to put on a child’s shoulders. One area that my parents have always been left out of the loop is politics. This is due to the appalling lack of interpreters for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.
Fortunately, new beginnings are around the corner, due to consistent news briefings returning to the White House under President Biden, according to The Washington Post. Specifically, an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter will be a regular occurrence at all White House briefings. The interpreter, Heather Mewshaw, has not recently been called in since the COVID-19 briefing due to her support of former President Donald Trump.
This new accessibility is a positive change, it feels relieving to know that my parents are able to experience briefings firsthand and keep up to date with the country’s current state. Regardless of Mewshaw’s ties to the former administration, she says she is required to commit to neutrality and that she has the utmost respect for the president, and she holds a respect for President Joe Biden. It is still a big step to providing more inclusivity, and I appreciate that just as the deaf community does.
This is the first time any presidential administration worked toward more accessible news briefings, as well as creating an inclusive environment for people with hearing impairments. I know the deaf community is thrilled to finally be considered part of the hearing community. Inclusivity can go a long way in a persons’ life.
Biden’s Inaugural Committee even made the effort to provide ASL interpretation and live closed captioning for his inauguration day. That is unique and such an effective step in the right direction.
The most important aspects regarding sign language are facial expressions and body language. Expressions and body movements provide much more understanding and a feel for the tone or mood for events. This is the equivalent of determining attitude and emotion in a person’s voice.
Not enough has been done to accommodate those with hearing impairments. For instance, closed captioning is not always accurate. Word and audio delays, misspellings and just plain inaccuracy with words are just some things that hinder total understanding for the hearing impaired.
I have always used closed captioning, and it has become a habit to use because of my parents. I actually prefer to read and listen, in case I miss anything or need clarification. I couldn’t imagine how it must look and feel for my parents.
To be a hearing child of deaf adults with an ability that they lack feels unfair sometimes. It’s nice to see that we are slowly progressing into a world of inclusivity and accessibility, my parents now have a further opportunity to experience politics first hand.
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