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Claudia Gordon, First Black Deaf Lawyer

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 1 month ago


Claudia Gordon, First Known Black Deaf Lawyer

Claudia Gordon, who lost her hearing at the age of eight, was born in Jamaica, in the West Indies (Odunlami, 2001). When she developed a severe pain in her middle ears, her aunt took her to a small health clinic since were no towns or big hospitals where she lived.  Unfortunately, there were no doctors in attendance and the nurse that was there did not know what to do.  At first Gordon refused to believe that she was deaf because when people spoke to her, she read their lips and thought that she heard their voices (Odunlami, 2001).  When her mother found out about Gordon’s deafness, she brought her to New York where she was living at the time. Gordon, who did not attend school in Jamaica, was happy about the move.


In New York, she transferred to Lexington School for the Deaf after first attending public school where she started to learn sign language.  She was also involved in volleyball, basketball, and track.  When she decided that she wanted to become a lawyer, people patronized her, thinking she couldn’t do it (Odunlami, 2001). Possibly the first deaf undergraduate there, Gordon attended Howard University, a well-known historically black college in Washington, D.C. after graduating from high school.  She began law school in 1997 at American University Washington College of Law. (www.wcl.american.edu) During her time there, she had access to a sign language interpreter for her classes, an essential component in her education.  Her third year there, she received a prestigious Skadden Fellowship to join the National Association for the Deaf as a staff attorney. She graduated cum laude in 1995 and in 2000, she became the law school’s first deaf graduate. (www.wcl.american.edu) and one on only 50 deaf individuals qualified to practice law at that time in the United States and Canada. (Howard University’s



Ms. Gordon has served as Vice-President of the National Black Deaf Advocates Association (NBDA) and has provided advocacy leadership at the National Association of the Deaf Law Center; the Civil Practice Clinic at the Washington College of Law, Washington, DC Public Defender Service-Mental Health Division; the Black Law Students Association; the National Black Deaf Advocates Association; and the Consumer Action Network. (www.aapd-dc.org/gala/gala02/leadershipawards02.html). As of 2007, she is a Policy Advisor for the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, especially involved in the area of emergency preparedness for individuals who have special needs and individuals with disabilities. (2007, p. 885).


With regard to her mode of communication, Gordon prefers to have the message presented visually via a sign language interpreter.  In her position as Senior Policy Advisor, she has a full-time interpreter so she can participate in meetings, teleconferences, speeches, etc. as is required by the federal government under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (2007, p. 888).


Ms. Gordon’s philosophy is, “Regardless of one’s disability, with the right attitude, success is attainable in school and in the workplace.” (2007, p. 888).


Odunlami, A., (September-October 2001). Making the Dream Real. The Story of Claudia Gordon. World Around You. Retrieved on September 20, 2007, from Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center, Gallaudet University


(2007). Career & Professional Development, Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law 15(5), 885-888.  


Posted by Martina Villarson


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