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Business Insider
AUG. 20, 2014

A deaf-blind attorney who made Business Insider's 2013 list of the 20 most impressive Harvard Law students is now fighting for the rights of blind readers in a lawsuit against digital subscription reading service Scribd, seeking equal access for the blind. 

Haben Girma made Business Insider's 2013 list for her work advocating on behalf of people with disabilities. Now, at 26, she is continuing her efforts as a Skadden Fellowship Attorney with the nonprofit law firm Disability Rights Advocates. There, Girma is representing the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and blind Vermont mother Heidi Viens in a lawsuit against Scribd for allegedly depriving blind readers access to its online services in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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Gallaudet Website
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Several Gallaudet University students are working to improve the American justice system for the deaf by interning with Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf (HEARD), a D.C.-based nonprofit organization.

Corinna Hill
Gallaudet Student - Corinna Hill '14

HEARD recently was featured in two episodes of Al Jazeera America series "America Tonight." "Deaf In Prison" focused on the plight of deaf and hard of hearing inmates in prisons throughout the United States, and HEARD kicked off a #DeafinPrison social media campaign during which it promoted the Al Jazeera episodes on YouTube.

Corinna Hill, '14, is one of the Gallaudet students who helped HEARD with its outreach efforts. "I grew up thinking that the prison system was fair, and now I realize it has flaws," said Hill, a Boonsboro, Md., native who majored in history. "Innocent deaf Americans are sitting in prison."

HEARD is a volunteer-run organization founded by American University law student Talila Lewis. After a semester-long externship with the D.C. Public Defense Service, Lewis set a mission: to improve communication accessibility for deaf prisoners and fight for those who have been wrongfully convicted.

"Only five prisons in the U.S. have videophones - Virginia, Vermont, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Maine," Lewis said.

There also are numerous cases of allegedly innocent deaf Americans who have been imprisoned for years, unable to tell their story and without access to interpreters or even a TTY.

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Written by Jared Pelletier
Last updated on March 21, 2014 @ 8:08PM
Created on March 21, 2014 @ 7:03PM

mark-leekoff-deaf-studentFriday was a big day for medical school students across the country. It was National Match Day which means thousands of aspiring doctors found out where they'll start their residency training.


Almost 27,000 medical school students nationwide found out where they'll doing their residency training once they graduate in May. Approximately 34,000 medical school seniors applied for a residency match this year which means not everyone was selected. Fortunately for students at the WVU School of Medicine all 78 seniors ended up with a match.


"I'm really excited. It's good to see, mostly for my classmates, where everybody matches," said WVU medical student Ali Hajiran.


There's one student in particular who has overcome a major obstacle in his life to pursue his passion of treating the sick and injured. His name is Mark Leekoff and he's from Virginia. When he gradates from WVU School of Medicine he will become the first medical school graduate in West Virginia who is deaf.


"I've overcome a lot in my life and this is the culmination of all the experiences," said Leekoff.


WVU School of Medicine administrators are saying Leekoff's story is inspiring.


Dr. Hannah Hazard is the WVU School of Medicine Assistant Dean. She said, "Anybody that overcomes what would traditionally be considered an adversity towards our profession such as this is always an incredible story."


When he was three years old Leekoff was one of the first kids in the United States to receive a cochlear implant. Before he received the implant he was completely deaf. To this day he claims he remembers the first time he was able to hear the world around him.


"I thought I was hearing static from the TV. It was just really loud and I remember yelling at my mom to take it off," said Leekoff.


Debbie Leekoff was all smiles on Friday as her son prepared to find out where his residency would take place. While reflecting on the first time her son was able to hear she said, "It was music to my ears if you will because he heard. This is the most amazing day ever. Mark has exceeded every expectation."


Leekoff and his family members are saying it hasn't been easy. Years of speech therapy and performing surgery with limited hearing have all presented challenges, but Leekoff's condition hasn't prevented him from achieving his dream. His condition is also the primary reason why he wanted to become a doctor in the first place.


As he continues his journey Leekoff hopes other people will hear his story and learn to never give up. He said, "When I see patients, especially in neurology when people have debilitating diseases, I am the hope for them."


Leekoff will be heading to the University of Maryland for Neurology.


Fairfax County Public Schools is looking for young applicants to be models/peers in our Total Communication preschool for next year.

We are looking for signing CODAs who also have age appropriate speech and language.  We are interested in 3 year old applicants but also specifically really  need a girl who is 4 – 4 ½ years old to be a peer / model for one of our students.

You must live in Fairfax County to apply.

If you are interested in applying, please contact Courtney Korb at for an application and further information.

Please spread the word.

Thank you,
Jan Pry
Preschool TC teacher

Department of Education Announces New Effort to Strengthen Accountability for Students with Disabilities
The Department of Education recently announced new steps to help close the achievement gap for students with disabilities by moving away from a one-size-fits-all, compliance-focused approach to a more balanced system that looks at how well students are being educated in addition to continued efforts to protect their rights.
...continue reading "Dept. of Education Announces New Effort to Strengthen Accountability for Students with Disabilities"