The White House will reportedly provide American Sign Language interpretation at President Joe Biden’s address to Congress next week, something deaf activists said no previous presidential administration has done. 

ABC News was the first to report the news.

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) praised the decision as an important step in the Biden administration’s commitment to accessibility 

“To the best of our knowledge, this is a historical first for the White House to have an American Sign Language interpreter during a Presidential address to Congress,” NAD CEO Howard A. Rosenblum said in a statement to HuffPost. “We commend the White House for taking steps to ensure accessibility for all who are watching, including deaf and hard of hearing people.”

While the nonprofit Deaf Professional Arts Network (D-PAN) has provided ASL interpretation for congressional addresses and other major political events in recent years, the group told ABC News that this will be the first time the White House has proactively provided the service on its own. 

The interpretation will appear on the White House’s official livestream, but NAD is also pushing news outlets to make the interpretation visible on their broadcasts as well.

“We urge all TV stations carrying the broadcast to properly display the interpreter in frame or via an appropriately sized picture-in-picture inset without obscuring graphics so that deaf and hard of hearing people can access what is being said,” Rosenblum added. 

In January, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced that Biden’s administration would begin providing ASL interpretations at all of its briefings. 

“The president is committed to building an America that is more inclusive, more just and is more accessible for every American, including Americans with disabilities and their families,” she said at the time.

Former President Donald Trump’s administration began providing ASL interpretations during his COVID-19 briefings after NAD filed a lawsuit stating the lack of real-time accessibility was a violation of the First Amendment and laws protecting Americans with disabilities.

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