There are more than ten million Americans who are hard of hearing and one million who are deaf. It is estimated that there are more than two hundred deaf attorneys in the US. People with hearing disabilities face a lot of obstacles. Recently, there was created The Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association to support deaf lawyers and give handicapped attorneys, judges and legal professionals support. Those people prove that it is possible to be a successful lawyer even being deaf.
Common people do not know that the real deaf community is enormous. Deaf people struggle to succeed in their lives. Fortunately, things are improving. The quantity of deaf students in law schools is increasing. There are more prelingually deaf people, who enter law departments. Most of deaf lawyers are oral or late-deafened. Those people deserve utmost respect because from the early childhood they struggle with different issues other people even do not pay attention to. Earlier, it was difficult to find out if a baby is deaf. Deaf children did not have access to education. In the sphere of education, some factors improved the literacy of people with hearing disabilities. Early intervention is a very important issue. It means that deaf children are given an opportunity to learn language. It should be done to avoid crippling linguistic delay. Another factor is an increased education for the parents about raising deaf children. It is impossible to expect from healthy parents to know how to take care of a deaf children. Parental engagement in education is essential. Another factor is captioning. Deaf kids should watch TV shows with subtitles. With the help of films with subtitles, deaf kids could access the “mainstream language”. Language acquisition is crucial for any successful deaf lawyer.
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John A. is a known deaf lawyer. He states that the deaf students face unique challenges at every level of the legal system. They face ignorance of those with whom they try to socialize. They want to meet with people at the college, but to do that, they need an interpreter. Deaf law students socialize using pen and paper, and it is awful when they get upset. People with hearing disabilities fall back on facial expressions and animation. It helps them to communicate with others. John tells a story of a woman with hearing problems. Her school denied her advancement and did not want to accept her application form because of deafness. It is frustrating. After that story, John decided to become a lawyer to make the world better for people like him. John was the youngest child in his family; he was born deaf. Doctors think that it happened because of the virus. The school he attended majored in language therapy for people with hearing loss. He had to learn sign language there because most of schoolchildren did not know how to talk and how to sign. As a kid, he was interested in reading books on law and history. He took part in a mock trial team. His coach encouraged him to become an attorney. It is obvious that deaf lawyers have one big advantage – they are good listeners. Their health problem makes them listen carefully not just the sound language but sign language. People do not acknowledge the abilities of the deaf people. The deaf are the best lawyers because they are focused and it is hard to distract them. They do not pay much attention to distractions. Technology gives a lot of opportunities for deaf people today; they can become lawyers, doctors, accountants. People with disabilities should be nerds to succeed in hard competitive times. John states that deaf people suffer from ignorance and lack of attention. It is because healthy people do not have enough experience with the deaf.
Helen G. is a special lawyer. She graduated Harvard Law. She works as a Skadden Fellowship Attorney. To top it off, she is only twenty-six. This lawyer is not only deaf; she is blind. However, she did not let her disabilities to ruin her life. Helen recognized that it would be much harder for her to practice law without the modern technology. Screenreaders and Braille displays are essential in interaction. All these equipment gives a lot of opportunities and independence for disabled people. New technologies help deaf people open up and develop.
Helen G. works for DRA. This association provides people who have health problems with free legal representation. There, Helen helps people with different disabilities including mobility, sensory, and cognitive disorders. She is proud of becoming disability rights lawyer. Helen claims that her work would be impossible without modern technologies. A tool called VoiceOver helps her read; this equipment outputs visual information on the screen into a digital Braille. To keep in touch with others, she uses a Braille display paired with Bluetooth keyboard. It helps to transcribe audio format during phone calls, interviews, conferences. She can read the information on her display. Technologies give deaf people a lot of possibilities, but their determination gives them career prospects. This woman uses everything possible to make this world better and more equitable for those who are disabled.
Nowadays, many people prefer to find a lawyer with hearing problems or a lawyer who understands American Sign Language. Jordan A., who is able to speak but not hear, was the first lawyer to dispute before the United States Supreme Court. With the help of display screen, the lawyer could speak with his client by reading his questions and answering them. It was the first event when the court used special electronic devices in the courtroom. The case had a big impact on schools across the nation. Now, they provide special services for deaf youngsters. Today, more than one billion education budget is dedicated to the handicapped. However, unfortunately, it is not enough. The price for full-time sign-language interpreter is twenty thousand dollars. Education is part and parcel of child’s development; it gives an opportunity to achieve their full potential. Education enables a child to become a “functioning member of the society”. Deaf children need a free access to education.
Another lawyer who proved that physical disabilities cannot create any obstacles for becoming a famous and successful lawyer is Kate. She is a deaf Nigerian lawyer stating that deaf community is tightly accreted although we see people who are social outcasts. The system is simply not adjusted to the needs of people who are deaf. They often have a poor literacy; the age for deaf school leavers is eight-nine years. It means that they cannot process information, access telephone helplines, and get a degree. She hopes that the needs of deaf people will be satisfied and accepted. Kate said that her family helped her to get education because it had enough money to provide an interpreter for her. Not all families with deaf children are able to afford an interpreter. That is why the state should give green light to all children with disabilities and create special establishments for them (Witt, 1979).
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Erin B. shares her own experience. She is a deaf lawyer, who has an aptitude for advocacy. Law seems to be a natural progression in her career. During her time in the University of New Brunswick, Erin used gadgets which provided her with hearing support. She used hearing aids, so called “lifeline”. She wore FM System. The young woman is sure that her hearing loss helped her with her career. Deafness helped her to develop listening skills, which help her communicate with her clients, co-workers, or judges. She got used to work harder than other students without disabilities. It helped her to become a determined, diligent, and ambitious person. She developed great time management and organization skills. Now, Erin encourages students with hearing disabilities not to give up, be courageous and meet all challenges (Robinson, 2014). She informs that such people can fall back on the help of different organizations like Canadian Hard of Hearing association – Newfoundland and Labrador as well as on teachers and professors.
Deaf lawyer Liam M. defends the rights of deaf-mute people. His parents were totally deaf. He began losing his own hearing when he was twelve years old. He compares losing hearing with a curtain coming down. He knew he had only a couple of years until his hearing would be totally lost. Therefore, he did everything to get education. In spite of being totally deaf until his late teens, Liam managed to earn a degree at Roosevelt University and the University of Chicago. At twenty-two, he entered John Marshall Law School. His sister, Joan M., serves as his translator, translating every single word to him in sign language. When Liam was a child, he heard horrible stories about the attempts of deaf people to find a job or enter university who were turned away of the gate. Liam himself wanted to be a doctor, but even if he passed all exams successfully, no medical school in the country would give him a chance. Then, he decided to become an accountant, but the Marshall School did not want to accept him. They explained that he would not be able to hear the teachers. However, the young man did not surrender; he graduated from law school being second in his class. Now, dozens of cases are waiting for Liam. It used to be that in the court, there were no interpreters for deaf people. Not everyone could afford an interpreter. Liam drafted the law demanding the court to provide deaf-mute people with an interpreter in every case. Moreover, he wrote a book called The Law and the Deaf where he explained the rights of deaf people. It is popular all over the world. He makes clear that deaf people cannot be discriminated by employers. A handicapped person cannot be denied a job unless his/her disability interferes with the work to be accomplished (Anonymous Deaf Law Student: Justice Is Blind, Can it Be Deaf Too, 2008).
In conclusion, deafness closes one door and opens another. A deaf person cannot hear but can focus on the most important things. It makes him/her competitive in the world job market. Sometimes, the disabled people can be much more successful than those who are healthy. Nerves of steel, diligence, and responsibility make them irreplaceable workers and leaders.