Meet the Sign Language Interpreter at President Joe Biden's Inauguration
What happened: At President Joe Biden’s inauguration, firefighter Andrea M. Hall recited the Pledge of Allegiance using American Sign Language (ASL). This may be the first time the pledge was recited simultaneously spoken and in ASL at a U.S. Inauguration. While it is unknown whether or not Hall is Deaf or hard-of-hearing herself, she has broken barriers. According to a 19th News profile, Hall became the first Black female firefighter at the City of Albany Fire Department in Georgia and has been the president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 3920.
A refreshing sight to see accessibility and inclusivity. pic.twitter.com/Cggvp6TTub
— Nyle DiMarco (@NyleDiMarco) January 20, 2021
The Frontlines: Around 1 million Deaf and hard of hearing people use American Sign Language as their main form of communication, according to Newsweek. Despite this fact, many events lack ASL interpreters.
- A federal judge ruled in September that the White House had to provide sign language interpreters at public and televised COVID-19 briefings. This decision came after the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) sued the White House.
- Deaf New Yorkers also sued Governor Andrew Cuomo for not having sign language interpreters at his coronavirus briefings.
A Mighty Voice: President Biden has a stutter, a familiarity with disability and inclusion that could have an impact on government events becoming more accessible. Contributor James Hayden, who has a stutter, wrote about his reaction to Biden’s then-candidacy as someone who has the same disability.
“I wish I’d had this for my 10-year-old self. Not only would 10-year-old James know he’s not the only person in the world who stutters, but that he can (and will) accomplish incredible things in his life. Having this kind of representation at a young age would’ve answered some of the questions I struggled with during my childhood and adolescent years.” You can submit your first-person story, too
Other Things to Know: Not all Deaf and hard of hearing people know ASL or another form of sign language, which means they may need different accommodations. You can read these stories to understand different experiences, accessibility issues and ableism that people who are Deaf or hard of hearing may face.
- The U.S. Presidential Debate Excluded Deaf and Hard of Hearing People
- What Biden Winning the Election Means to Me as a Deaf Mom
- Growing Up in the ‘Gray Area’ of Hearing Loss
How to Take Action: If you would like to find more accessible options to view inauguration day events, you can visit Biden’s inauguration website’s An Accessible Inauguration page.