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March 06, 2006


Hayley Rohn

Mad, I'm really ejoying your blog and have so much admiration for you and your experience as a litigator with hearing loss. Keep up the good work!


Oh, how frustrating! I agree that we should be thankful that some progress is being made but it's not adequate to simply have aids available. They must work!


Mad, I hope you sorted out the audio that you wanted, and your case went well this week.

Sorry to have to pick you up on this, but I'm concerned about this comment:

"I much prefer audio amplification to real-time, but my client deserves to have an advocate who can hear and address everything the judges and opposing counsel have to say about his case."

As you will know there are many deaf lawyers who cannot listen to judges or opposing counsel, and have to rely on interpreters or speech to text. Whilst I understand you are talking about personal experience, such comments do nothing to eliminate prejudice for the rest of us.

If we use a human aid to communication, are you sending out a message that because we cannot "hear and address everything the judges and opposing counsel have to say about his case" we are not acting in the client's best interest, and thus an ineffective advocate?

A message to law firms, public bodies, not for profit / voluntary sector not to employ those who use interpreters / captioners? Should they just give up law?

Sorry to pick you up on this, but discrimination out there is rife, and again I do hope your case went well this week. Thank you for sharing your experiences via your blog.


My client DOES deserve an effective advocate. I think that I, personally, am most effective with audio. If I can't have that, then I have to use real-time, because it's not fair to my client for me to be flailing around with poor or non-existent "hearing." I'm sorry if you read this point as somehow discriminating against other lawyers with hearing (or other) disabilities, who find a different set of accommodations preferable. But remember, just as others can't use audio amplification, real time is an inferior accommodation FOR ME, because of my vision loss, and because I CAN benefit from audio systems, as long as they work properly.

Also, Alison, I really _can't_ use a human interpreter. I'm not a good enough lip-reader to rely on that, and I can't see well enough to follow sign (and I don't know sign, alas). A human 'terp, for me, would be useless. I admire people who are able to use sign or oral interpreters, and of course believe that people should have that accommodation available to them if that's what works. I'm somewhat baffled as to how you perceived an anti-interpreter discriminatory message in my post, but I apologize if you did.

Back to my accommodations. Audio allows me to hear the judges as they are speaking, and so I vastly prefer it to real time. Real time, as you know, carries a brief delay. It also requires me to look at the computer screen, not the judges, and with my tiny field of vision, that effectively cuts me off from the judges. I have used it, and it is often an invaluable aid. I love it for meetings and CLEs and the like. But in appellate argument, I want good audio, because that allows _me_ to argue as effectively as _I_ can. I've said this before, but I rely on my hearing for communication, so it is very important for me to be able to HEAR what's happening, if that's at all possible.

I'm never going to be Deaf, Alison. My personal experiences aren't going to further your cause.


Mad, I am not asking you to be Deaf. I am not shunning your own personal needs either. I hoped I made this point clear in my comments. I accept where you are coming from re audio.

The point I was trying to get at is such comments such as "my client deserves to have an advocate who can hear and address everything the judges and opposing counsel have to say about his case" IMPLIES that people who do use interpreters are giving a second rate service. It implies that via interpreters you somehow miss information, and thus an inferior advocate.

Like it or not, such attitudes *do* have an implication on the rest of us.

Henry Vlug

I am a Deaf lawyer. I have been active in the courts for about 20 years. I use interpreters. I hear absolutely nothing that the judges or opposing counsel say. My record shows I am a good advocate nevertheless! I too read that comment and did not like it!

Audio accommodation should be simple. It just requires some advocacy to get it set up. It took and continues to take advocacy effort to keep the sign language interpreting at adequate levels.

To each his/her own, but let's not even imply that those who use different methods are thereby not doing an adequate job!

Sheila Conlon Mentkowski

perhaps you don't realize it but unfortunately, the way you wrote your comment re 'I much prefer audio amplification to real-time, but my client deserves to have an advocate who can hear and address everything the judges and opposing counsel have to say about his case.' is VERY condescending and unfair to people who have to rely on CART and sign language interpreters to participate in similar court situations.
I also think that in the situation you describe, you still have the responsibility as you admit, to say that you need an accommodation, otherwise, you appear 'stupid' if you don't, for example go and test the devices in the courts. Yes, you are whining but you have to or the field is not level for you if you wish to participate equally in the appellate court. Henry's right, 'to each his/her own, but don't even imply by what you did state that those who use different methods are thereby not doing an adequate job'. Sheila


To the extent my use of the word "hear" suggested that someone using a non-oral accommodation might be "inadequate," I apologize. That was not my intention.

But I was writing about MYSELF, and my argument, and my need for accommodations. Surely you will agree that my client DOES deserve an advocate who can understand the judges and respond to their questions. _I_ can understand the judges in one of two ways: hearing them via audio (or, when the audio fails, with just my hearing aids), or reading their words via real-time. It is very challenging for me to argue effectively without using one of these tools. I prefer the former, but will use the latter if I must.

I merely understood MAD to be saying that she was not going to pretend she was "hearing" and therefore did not need any kind of accommodation. MAD seemed to be saying that she needed the audio system to be effective because this is what allows her to represent her clients adequately. This would be similar to a Deaf lawyer saying she needs an interpreter to be effective on the behalf of her clients.

Sachi Wilson

I have to let courts know about my hearing impairment before arguments as well, although I don't need much in the way of accommodations. I would likely have used the same words as Mad in describing my personal situation, and I would have meant no slight to my deaf colleagues.

Really, people. This is a *blog*. If Mad were arguing to a legislature that deaf people were incapable of being lawyers because clients deserved lawyers who could hear, then this uproar might be justified. But Mad would not say that, and neither would I, and YOU KNOW IT. Save your anger for a serious battle.

Carrie Ann Lucas


Sorry the accoms did not work as well as they should have. Glad your Thursday argument went well. Even though I use interpreters, I have to let the court know about accommodations. I understand the feeling that we don't want people thinking we are getting an unfair advantage, or are trying to use our disability as an excuse. It's just reality for lawyering when you have a disability.


Thanks for amplifying, Mad! And I didn't know anonymous blog posts were allowed? I thought it was not possible to post something unless the poster signed their name as I see someone posted a comment with out signing their name?
Sachi, we are not angry and we know it is a blog. It's good to have an ongoing discussion such as this.
Yes, we all have to let the court know about our need for accommodations. We want them to be in working order or available when we need them. The point is, the accoms were not working and Mad was getting stress she should not have. It appears we all agree we need to let the courts know what accomms we need and they need to be ready and up and running, whether an interpreter, a CART, or assistive listening devices, etc.


Well...looks like SL has rallied up all three remaining members to take the opportunity to try and prove how WRONG someone is. Makes me thrilled once again we formed DGA. We actually *support and encourage* each other over there. Maybe I should ask all 103 members to come over here and post in Mad's defense.

You guys totally misconstrued what Mad was saying. She was simply saying she needed to have the best accommodations she could so that she could do her absolute best for her client. Our ethical obligations as an attorney require nothing less. But since you skewed the point, is it better to hear what's going on in court? Absolutely. It's easier, there's no delay, you don't miss emotional and auditory cues, etc. Can you be just as effective with good accommodations? Absolutely and I did not see Mad say otherwise.

I don't get what you all are doing here anyway, just looking to tell Madeline she's making the wrong choices and comments on HER OWN BLOG? Good lord. None of you know her from a hole in the wall. She's nothing like the Antichrist you try to make her out to be. She's done an amazing job at dealing with her disabilities. She's very bright (remember she went to Stanford for law school), successful and she's incredibly understanding and adaptive to other's ways of dealing with their own disabilities. She would NEVER questions someone's decision to get or not get a CI, she would never criticize someone's accommodations choices. The deaf/hoh attorney community should be incredibly proud of her. You all need to go spend your energy elsewhere.


SL vs DGA debate! NO! Quit the paranoia. Why is DGA got anything to do with this?

On SL I asked people'e opinions on this matter, as a wanted to double check on myself. I don't have access to DGA, so SL was the right place to go.

For information, as I said on SL I a) respect Mad. Go and read. I am prepared to reflect those sentiments here. b) I respect this is her space. I've said that here before, and I will happily say it again.

I also have given her praise for being open, both in public and on SL. Go and get your mates to forward everything I've said, just to prove my point!

Kirsteen - not sure why CIs are being dragged into comments on this post, cos this isn't about CIs. Thought it was about courtroom access, and whether people who use terps or CART can be effective interpreters!

I and others read comments on this thread as a direct attack on people who use terps / CART in the courtroom, through implication. I just made a comment on this, and asked others if they thought the same.

As I said in my comments above, and elsewhere, if Mad wants to go and use a ear trumpet, a laser beam, or whatever ... I don't care! However, I start to care when implications are made about effectiveness of human aids.

Chill out the week hasn't started yet! Its only Monday.


Sorry this should read:

"Thought it was about courtroom access, and whether people who use terps or CART can be effective interpreters"

can be effective advocates / lawyers.


Mad, it's a bloody pain that you have to go through all that you are going through. I sympathise; it is a constant pain having to check all sorts of things before going to court or tribunal, but unfortunately, this is something we have to put up with. Until the judiciary provides equal access for all advocates, we have to lump it. By the way, accommodations for Deaf lawyers over here in the UK is a bit of a grey area because there are so few Deaf lawyers actually making representations in court, that we don't really know whether the courts would provide communication support etc. as required.

As for Kristin's comment; sigh. Trust this to become a DGA vs. SL debate. I know exactly what Kirstin is trying to do - she's trying to make SL look like the bad guys and the DGA the good guys. DGA isn't a transparent organisation and isn't accountable to anyone; SL is. And SL has far more than just "three remaining members". That comment was totally out of order and ranks of bitterness. You should be ashamed of yourself Kirstin, for attacking SL on a public form such as Mad's blog.

Anyway, keep up the good fight, Mad!

Bernard Hurwitz

There's no SL vs. DGA debate. That debate, if ever there was one, was settled a long, long time ago when DGA far surpassed SL in both active and total members. When it takes a message board ostensibly composed of 79 members an entire month to reach 23 posts, that's a good sign that the board needs to think about packing it in.

Kirstin's point was simply that you three are barking up the wrong tree when you say that Mad somehow implied that "people who use terps or CART can't be effective advocates/lawyers." Sheesh. That would be like us being offended that Sheila thanked Mad for "amplifying" her comments when the word "amplify," as we all know, can be taken as an insult to people who don't benefit from hearing aids or CIs. Get the point?

Mad apologized a number of times when she clarified her comments -- even though she didn't need to. I haven't seen any of you come close to apologizing -- especially for calling Mad's comments "VERY condescending."

Also, I understand you have been asking on SL about the May ABA National Conference on Employment of Lawyers with Disabilities. A complete agenda for this conference is available at Several DGA members will be in attendance, and a couple will be speaking.


Bernard, I've made my comments re respect to Mad.

A really inappropriate place to bring this up (again why was SL brought into this thread). I for one get a lot out of SL, and get a lot out of communication I've made offlist. Don't always post on SL, because it feels like being in a glass bowl. As someone who is not active on SL, you are hardly in a position to judge whether it should close or not.

If you want SL to close, will you welcome everyone onto DGA? If the answer to that question is no, then SL or other connections has to stay. There is too much exclusion happening.


OK, that's enough. I think we've beaten this horse good and dead. Any more sniping, and I'm turning off comments to this post. Thanks to all of you for your insights and opinions.


Quite frankly, Sheila was the one who attacked first by accusing Mad of being "VERY condescending." Nothing could be further from the truth.

And lest you forget, Mad has documented her serious vision issues as well. To the extent she can rely on other senses as much as she can, it helps her. Think about that as well before you question her decisions - or "encourage discussion" or whatever spin you put on this so-called debate.

Kirstin has NOTHING to be ashamed of. She is defending her friend on her blog.

This whole mess could have been avoided if Alison, Sheila, and Henry could have read Mad's comments more carefully.

Mad is one of the most accomplished persons I have ever had the chance to meet, and to have you people accuse of of being condescending is intolerable.


Albert - you are not Deaf, so how can you speak and judge how Deaf people view the world?

Its the same as a white person passing judgement on Black people's experiences, telling them what they should think.


Alison, you want to get into a Deaf v. hard-of-hearing pissing contest, take it somewhere else. I'm turning off comments to this post now.

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