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Agencies press White House to have sign language interpreters during press briefings

Letters send to Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham stressed the importance of having American Sign Language interpreters during COVID-19 updates.

WASHINGTON — The National Council on Disability and the National Association of the Deaf sent letters to the White House asking why there aren't any sign language interpreters during the coronavirus task force public briefings.

Millions of people in the United States are deaf or hard of hearing, according to the National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent federal agency that provides advice and recommendations regarding disability policy to the president, Congress, and other federal agencies. Its letter to White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham stressed the importance of having American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters during imperative COVID-19 updates.

"There is no doubt that the coronavirus brings with it significant added concerns for people with disabilities," the letter from Chairman Neil Romano said.

The National Association of the Deaf said it has received "daily complaints from deaf and hard of hearing citizens across the country" since the very first White House press conference.

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Almost every state governor have had qualified ASL interpreters beside them during their coronavirus briefings, so the agencies are asking the White House to do the same.

The National Association of the Deaf also asked the Department of Health and Human Services and their Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "to immediately make all information relating to coronavirus on their websites available in ASL."

The organization said it has been asking for videos with ALS updates for at least two weeks, but nothing has been released.

The White House hasn't released any statement about adding interpreters during press briefings.

Worldwide the coronavirus has infected more than 275,000 people and killed more than 11,300. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems. More than 88,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China. 

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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