Two Deaf Law Students Tell Their Stories
Deaf people experience oppression around the world. However, Deaf leaders and others are fighting to change that. Some are using law degrees or expertise as lawyers to defend Deaf rights. And more Deaf lawyers are training to join them.
Meet two Deaf law students in the two videos below. The first is Juventus Duorinaah, the Executive Director of the Ghana National Association of the Deaf. The second is Vianney Sierralta Aracena from Chile.
Juventus Duroinaah tells his story in Ghana Sign Language. Similarly, Vianney Sierralta Aracena tells her story in Chilean Sign Language. Each story also has a transcript in English.
Below the videos, we also provide links about more deaf people working as, or training to be, lawyers. Who will be next to join them as Deaf law students around the world? Maybe you!
Meet Juventus Duorinaah from Ghana, Africa
Click here to show & hide the transcript with descriptions
Juventus Duorinaah, Deaf Law Student in Ghana
Image description: A man standing in front of a wall signs to the camera.
Transcript: “My name is Juventus Duorinaah, Executive Director of the Ghana National Association of the Deaf. I am at the same time a law school student.
First I received my Master in Law in the United Kingdom, England. Now I am a third-year student for my LLB degree. Now in law school, I have two interpreters. I also have my own interpreter, a third one to support them. They take turns. Two interpreters, Ghana for pay. Then the third interpreter, I pay for myself to come with me to law school.
Need more Deaf Law Students in Ghana
I’m the first Deaf person. There are no other Deaf law school students in Ghana. Now I’m trying to encourage other Deaf people in Ghana to join law school. It has not happened yet. [Thumbs up sign.]
“The reason why I’m in law school? So when I am finished, I will be better able to advocate for Deaf people’s human rights. Why? For Deaf children in school have a challenge. Deaf students in university have a challenge in getting interpreters. I hope when I am done, I will be able to provide better support for Deaf people.”
We hope you enjoyed watching Juventus Duroinaah from Ghana tell his story! Vianney Sierralata Aracena lives part way around the world from Ghana, but she has a similar story to tell!
Meet Vianney Sierralta Aracena from Chile, South America
Click here to show & hide the transcript with descriptions
Why I Started Law School
Image Description: A woman stands in front of a brick wall, signing to the camera. At the top left corner of the screen is the logo for the Nellie Zabel Foundation in Chile.
Transcript: “Hello, MNI! I am Vianney, from Chile. I wanted to explain the story of how I started law school to become a future lawyer.
In Chile, the Deaf community with its language and culture have not had access to lawyers or fighting for our rights. Then I met a deaf lawyer for the first time, Michael Steven Stein, an American who came to Chile! I was awed to meet a deaf lawyer! I decided I wanted to do the same thing. Michael gave me a scholarship so I could go to law school.
Five years of studying, studying, studying, was hard! Actually it has been difficult to combine study, family life (wife and mother of two beautiful teenagers) and also work. I worked for 16 years as a teacher but one day I thought and decided to leave the teaching to dedicate myself to the defense of human rights.
My Experience in Law School
In school, I was with hearing students. Hearing people were not dominant. Deaf and hearing were equal. We worked, we wrote, we read so many thick books! This was equal. In school, I had a sign interpreter and also online typing (remote closed captioning). That way, I could rely on whichever helped me learn and move on quickly.
I finished law school last year.
Working in court as a practicum student with the other lawyers and judge, I quickly realized the communication barriers and we had difficulty in communicating and understanding one another. We decided to use professional interpreting services online via laptop so I was able to follow what was happening in the courtroom.
I have attended 30 court sessions and am really enjoying law work. It has been a long process of 6 years! Now I am researching and sharing information about Deaf people who commit crimes such as theft, murder, etc and how to provide access in the legal and court system- how to protect them. I am almost finished and will submit my research – then I will finally receive my university degree in legal sciences.
Need More Deaf Lawyers in Chile!
Deaf people, if you’re interested in being a lawyer, then come on! Go to law school like I did! The Deaf community experiences so much oppression. We don’t have access to interpreters, or to education, or to courts, or to employment. It is important to look at the laws and provide access, to advocate for human rights. We need to have many Deaf lawyers stand together fighting for our human rights!
Other Deaf Lawyers and Law Students
Juventus Duroinaah and Vianney Sierralta Aracena are joining many other deaf people around the world as new lawyers! Follow the links below to learn about other Deaf people studying law or working as lawyers:
In the United States, Haben Girma is the first DeafBlind woman to graduate from Harvard Law School. Her website shares information about her accessibility and diversity training, consulting, and professional speaking services.
Deaf Legal Advocacy Worldwide (D-LAW) offers scholarships for Deaf law students around the world. Learn more about the people who have received D-LAW scholarships, including Juventus Duroinaah and Vianney Sierralta Aracena.
In the United States, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association is an organization of deaf, hard of hearing, and late-deafened attorneys, judges, law school graduates, law students, and legal professionals. Some people estimate that there are about 250 deaf lawyers in the United States.
Also in the United States, a Deaf lawyer from Jamaica worked in the White House.