No Handicapped Seating Available at Biden’s ADA Celebration Press Conference 

VDB Photos /
VDB Photos /

President Joe Biden has officially designated October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and he marked this occasion with a speech to commemorate the Americans with Disabilities Act. Biden delivered his address at the exact spot on the South Lawn of the White House where former President George H.W. Bush originally signed the ADA into law. 

Biden’s speech made it all about him, of course, taking the opportunity to highlight the actions his administration has taken to safeguard the rights of Americans with disabilities. He emphasized that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) serves as a “foundation of opportunity, significant inclusion, active participation, respect, and dignity” for individuals living with disabilities. 

But at the press conference following the speech, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was in the hot seat over a lack of handicapped-accessible seating in the briefing room. One reporter noted, “Karine, about disability, there’s no seat in this room for disabled journalists.” 

After being blatantly ignored by the bobblehead at the podium, the reporter again pointed out, “This room has no seat for a handicapped journalist.” 

KJP chose this moment to end the press conference, not addressing the reporter’s observation in any way. If KJP had acknowledged the oversight and pledged to fix it for future press events, America would have been more forgiving. Instead, the press secretary invoked her superpowers of Convenient Hearing Loss and ignored the statement completely, despite it being repeated more than once. 

As the press secretary skipped merrily away, another reporter expressed gratitude to the original reporter, saying, “Thank you for asking that.” 

Unsurprisingly, the backlash from social media was quick and brutal. 

On social media, one individual remarked, “It would be very disappointing if that didn’t get fixed today.”  Another user noted her response was “very poor judgment on her part.” Some people took it even further, calling for her removal and noting that KJP is “the most dishonest press secretary that has ever been in the White House.” 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a landmark piece of U.S. legislation that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. It mandates equal access to employment opportunities, public services, and accommodations in various aspects of life, such as transportation and public facilities. The ADA has since been amended to strengthen and clarify its provisions, ensuring better protection and inclusion for people with disabilities. 

The ADA, a pivotal piece of U.S. legislation, prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, ensuring equal access to employment opportunities and public services. However, accessibility in the White House press briefing room has not consistently met the standards of the ADA over the years.  

Acknowledging this oversight and committing to improvements for future briefings could have been a meaningful gesture of goodwill and a simple yet impactful action for Jean-Pierre. It would be a moment of genuine empathy and credibility, especially in a tenure marked by challenges and controversies. 

Or the press secretary extraordinaire could use her Houdini skills and vanish from the podium without a trace. 

But the Biden administration isn’t alone in offending disabled Americans. During his 2016 presidential campaign, former President Donald Trump faced controversy when he made gestures and comments that were interpreted as mocking a disabled journalist named Serge Kovaleski, who has a physical condition that affects the movement of his arms. Trump’s actions were widely criticized by many individuals and organizations as being disrespectful and offensive. Trump later denied that he was mocking Kovaleski’s disability and claimed that he did not know him, but the incident generated significant public and media attention. 

The ADA has had a profound impact on the lives of countless Americans living with disabilities. It has contributed to forging a society that is more inclusive and accessible, enabling people with disabilities to lead fulfilling and productive lives. 

Riding high on the victory of a 1990’s era George H.W. Bush, Biden took to X to post, “When we passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, we committed to building an America for all Americans.” His supporters quickly fawned over his remarks, thanking him for his “great work.” 

Great work, indeed, unless you’re a reporter at the White House. Then, you’re on your own.