FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 18, 2020
Brian Wilkerson, Director of Litigation and Legal Services
Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc. requests Governor Stitt immediately ensure all future COVID-19 press briefings are accessible for nearly 395,700 Deaf and Hard of Hearing Oklahomans
Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc. (ODLC) is requesting Governor Stitt and his COVID-19 task force immediately put protocols in place to ensure that all future COVID-19 press briefings have live, in frame, ASL interpretation.
It has come to ODLC’s attention that the use and provision of simultaneous American Sign Language (“ASL”) interpretation for Governor Stitt’s COVID-19 press briefings has not been consistent. While we applaud the Governor and his staff for providing this much needed and legally required accommodation for the majority of his COVID-19 briefings, we are concerned by the gaps that have occurred when effective communication was not provided for Oklahomans who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
The briefings provide Oklahomans with vital public health information, including the number of confirmed COVID- 19 cases, the availability of testing and testing procedures, information and recommendations about mask wearing and social distancing and other personal safety measures to be utilized to stop the spread of the virus. However, the nearly 395,700 Oklahomans who are Deaf or hard of hearing cannot understand Governor Stitt’s briefings without live televised ASL interpretation in frame. The lack of ASL interpretation excludes Deaf and Hard of Hearing Oklahomans from receiving this extremely important and potentially lifesaving information.
Melissa Sublett, ODLC’s Executive Director, said, “We were troubled to learn members of the Oklahoma Association for the Deaf had reached out to Governor Stitt directly and he failed to respond with little more than automated replies.”
“Failure to provide ASL interpretation during the Governor’s press briefings violates Title II of the ADA as well as Section 504. This issue was successfully litigated against Governor Cuomo in New York. The court ordered Governor Cuomo to immediately implement in-frame ASL interpretation during his daily press briefings. We firmly believe Deaf and Hard of Hearing citizens of Oklahoma are entitled to same accommodations and we will take whatever steps necessary to ensure that happens,” said ODLC’s Director of Litigation and Legal Services, Brian Wilkerson.
# # #September 14, 2020 Letter to the Governor