A federal judge Monday evening ordered Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to follow the lead of what governors, mayors and county executives across the United States routinely offer every day: the prominent use of a sign language interpreter during his daily Covid press briefings so tens of thousands of deaf New Yorkers can keep up to date on the latest coronavirus updates from Albany.
The Cuomo administration had pushed back against a lawsuit by Disability Rights New York, an advocacy group that last month sued the Democratic governor to try to force him to share the broadcast frame with an American Sign Language interpreter during his coronavirus press briefings.
The group first pressed back in March to make the briefings more accessible – via broadcast TV – to deaf New Yorkers by including an interpreter. At first, the administration provided closed captioning of the briefings; such captioning, however, can be riddled with errors when done on a live basis and did nothing for deaf people who do not speak English.
Next, the administration tapped a sign language interpreter, but, unlike other governors, Cuomo did not include the interpreters in the state-provided TV signal that is distributed to local, state and national broadcasters each day during his Covid briefings.
Instead, the signal was offered via a separate link on the internet; advocates for deaf people called that inadequate, in part, because of spotty broadband service in many parts of New York and because the interpreter broadcasts were not archived for people to watch them if they missed the live event.