© 2023 WFSU Public Media
WFSU News · Tallahassee · Panama City · Thomasville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

DeSantis Sued For Not Providing Sign Language Interpreters During Coronavirus Briefings

Ron DeSantis, wearing a face mask, walks towards the viewer. He is surrounded by people who are walking with him. Everyone pictured is wearing suits, ties, and dresses.
Lynne Sladky
AP Photo
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, center, arrives for a roundtable discussion with Miami-Dade County mayors during the coronavirus pandemic, Tuesday, July 14, 2020, in Miami.

Disability Rights Florida is suing Gov. Ron DeSantis and his executive office for not having a sign language interpreter during coronavirus press conferences. Disability Rights Florida is filing the lawsuit. Its lead attorney says DeSantis is breaking the law.

When viewers tune in to watch the governor, someone is missing. It's the person responsible for translating the governor's words into American Sign Language (ASL). Disability Rights Florida's lead attorney Ann Siegel says some Floridians who are deaf and hard of hearing depend on that interpreter.

"There are some individuals that studies show are approximately at a four to six grade level in reading, so closed captioning would be written normally at a higher level of reading, and it's not as accurate."

Siegel says closed captioning can be hard to understand because sometimes it skips words or uses the wrong ones. Siegel explains her group tried contacting DeSantis several times, but he never answered, prompting the lawsuit.

"In a perfect world, we would like him to immediately start including ASL interpreting services in all of his news briefings."

A similar lawsuit was filed against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he didn't have an interpreter during his daily TV COVID-19 briefings. Instead, viewers had to go online to see the interpreter. In that case, a federal judge ruled that Cuomo had to have the interpreter in the same frame as him while on TV.

Robbie Gaffney graduated from Florida State University with degrees in Digital Media Production and Creative Writing. Before working at WFSU, they recorded FSU’s basketball and baseball games for Seminole Productions as well as interned for the PBS Station in Largo, Florida. Robbie loves playing video games such as Shadow of the Colossus, Animal Crossing, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Their other hobbies include sleeping and watching anime.