Howard Rosenblum was just twelve years old when he attended an event that changed his life and determined his career path. At the event, he met Lowell Myers, a deaf attorney who had argued a famous case which was made into a movie, Dummy.
Howard recalls the event: “When he came to speak about his experiences as a lawyer at an event in 1978, a twelve-year-old deaf boy saw the same opportunity that Mr. Myers saw for himself. That boy was me, and thanks to Mr. Myers, I became a lawyer 14 years later.”
Today, Howard is a Senior Attorney at Equip for Equality located in Chicago– a non-profit organization that advances the human and civil rights of people with disabilities. He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona and a J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law. He is the founder and director of the Midwest Center for Law and the Deaf which provides attorney referrals for deaf and hard of hearing people. In 2002, he received the Edward J. Lewis II Pro Bono Service Award for providing many years of pro bono work during his tenure at the law firm of Monahan and Cohen.
Howard credits his parents for encouraging him to pursue his dream and to ignore the naysayers. Just as Myers inspired Howard, Howard is now inspiring other deaf and hard of hearing individuals with his path. The number of deaf and hard of hearing attorneys continues to grow, and together, they’re breaking down barriers.
There’s no typical day of work for the City of Olathe Legal Department. Leonard Hall, a deaf attorney who works for the city, takes care of land acquisition, eminent domain, zoning, and construction contracts. Toss in a little bit of ADA, Tax Law and Development Standards, and you can see why the Assistant City Attorney is busy from eight in the morning to six at night. On Tuesday nights, he is involved with City Council meetings.
“I like my job,” says Leonard. “I usually see the ‘final products,’ such as commercial shopping centers, interchanges, road improvements or bridge projects completed by the city.”
Leonard has a background in business and he obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Social Sciences at Emporia State University. He attended Emporia on a scholarship for long distance running and participated in the World Games for the Deaf. “I hold one world record for the deaf for the three-mile run and four American records in other events,” Leonard shared.
Leonard worked in his father’s business, Hall Truck Line, which gave him a solid background in business. With a strong desire to help people and provide service to deaf people, Leonard decided to continue his schooling to become an attorney. He obtained a Juris Doctor Degree in Law at Washburn University Law School in Kansas.
Leonard still finds time to write a weekly column for the Olathe News. He became a columnist in 1993 and has produced over 700 articles for the newspaper. He is also the coordinator of the Kansas City Coffee Chat– a social, monthly gathering of deaf and hard of hearing individuals.
Leonard’s newest challenge is learning to adjust to the new sounds produced by his cochlear implant. He had surgery in July of this year and wears a hearing aid in the other ear. “I am going through a world of changes with my hearing,” says Leonard. “My ability to understand speech went down to 5% before the surgery. Now I am back up to understanding 30% of speech with my implant and my hearing aid. I hope to increase it to 50% with the implant.”
Leonard is enjoying the new sounds but explains that it is a lot of hard work. “I like it, but it is a very difficult process — first the surgery, second, the mapping to increase the level of hearing and understanding, and third, the difficulty of adjusting to each level of hearing. It has been a long four months of making a lot of adjustments and many more months to go.”
Leonard is married to Charla, who is hard of hearing and has a vision impairment. They have one pre-teen son, Daniel who has hearing in the normal range.