• America's deaf community is urging the White House to use sign language during their public health briefings regarding COVID-19
  • founder and CEO Melissa "echo" Greenlee said her community is the "last to know" when it comes to the virus
  • The National Association of the Deaf and National Council on Disability also detailed in their letters the need for American Sign Language in information dissemination

As the United States is now plagued by the novel coronavirus, the nation's deaf community is asking the White House to utilize American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters as it addresses America's ongoing pursuit to contain and eventually suppress the complications of COVID-19.

With the White House on the forefront of disseminating information about the deadly virus, those with hearing impairments are kept in the dark, especially when public health briefings come on air. Melissa “echo” Greenlee, founder and CEO of, detailed to CNN her dismay that the community lacks information, especially during these trying times.

“I'm sad, angry and frustrated for myself and my community. I'm so tired of being left out and the last to know everything,” Greenlee said in an email. She is just among the many of deaf advocacy groups who are urging the Oval Office to keep them informed, through interpreters, about the “rapidly changing developments in the coronavirus fight.”

US President Donald Trump speaks during a Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC
US President Donald Trump speaks during a Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC AFP / JIM WATSON

The same advocacy is being pushed by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), the country's prime organization that promotes the civil rights of deaf and hard-hearing individuals of the United States. Together with the National Council on Disability (NCD), they sent several letters to former White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham after receiving “daily complaints” from its community.

NCD Chairman Neil Romano highlighted in his letter that the current state of the nation and COVID-19 as the whole “brings significant added concerns for people with disabilities” as the millions of people with hearing problems look to the ASL for vital information.

The same can be said on NAD CEO Howard Rosenblum's letter to Grisham, requesting her to “implement immediate action” for all public health hearings by President Trump and the White House Coronavirus Task Force to be “fully accessible” to the deaf.

Rosenblum also asked Grisham to have all information issued by the Department of Health and Human Services regarding COVID-19 in their websites to be available in ASL.

Along this line, CNN pointed that the current administration of President Donald Trump has used interpreters to deliver important updates tackled during public health hearings. As an example, the ASL was called upon to help the deaf community as the White House issued news when Hurricanes Irma and Harvey wrecked havoc in 2017.

But just like natural disasters, COVID-19 also brought with it fear and unrest. Deaf advocates said that the ASL is needed more than ever to help the deaf community understand deeper the many issues surrounding the virus and on how they can protect themselves and help America curb the spread of the illness. Greenlee added that without these important information, those with hearing impairments “become a risk to themselves and the community they live in.”