Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Getting to know Howard A. Rosenblum, the next CEO of NAD

BY JESSICA THURBER

Howard A. Rosenblum is a busy man—and understandably so. In a handful of weeks, he is going to be taking on his role as the next Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and I feel lucky having the opportunity to interview him for Deaf Politics.

Prior to the interview, I did not know much about the man and I figured I was not the only one unfamiliar with the new CEO. I decided that conducting an interview with Rosenblum would be beneficial for the deaf and hard of hearing community. After all, he's going to be the next Big Leader
of the deaf community for the next decade, or two, or three.

Howard A. Rosenblum

From childhood to adulthood

How did you get interested in law and politics? Was there a moment of clarity that brought you to where you are today?


My parents have always encouraged me to go into any type of career I wanted, including the legal and medical professions. When I was twelve, my mother dragged me to go and listen to Lowell Myers, who was the only deaf lawyer in the country at the time. It was a life-changing moment for me. Seeing Mr. Myers speak about his experiences made me realize that deaf people can indeed be lawyers, and that I wanted to be one.

What's your favorite thing about law and politics? What about the most disliked?

My favorite aspect of the type of law I practice allows me to intervene in acts of discrimination against deaf people and other people with disabilities. The part I dislike most is dealing with the lack of understanding among many people who are unaware of the rights of deaf people and other people with disabilities. It takes a great deal of work to educate people to prevent discrimination.

How did you decide to toss in your hat for the CEO position of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD)?

Several people encouraged me to apply, but I was not sure I wanted to leave my current job as an attorney or my hometown of Chicago. In the end, I decided to apply and see what happens. I felt that if I did get the position, I could do much more to change the system from the NAD than I could as a lawyer litigating on a case-by-case basis.

What would you consider your biggest achievement, and why?


While I never feel as if my work is done, I am proud of creating the Midwest Center on Law and the Deaf (MCLD). It is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization that provides information and referrals to deaf people seeking accessible legal representation. To me, this is critically important because it is extremely difficult to attain justice without a lawyer representing you, but many lawyers will not provide interpreters or other communication access to deaf clients. It was my hope that MCLD could become a way for deaf and hard of hearing consumers to find lawyers willing to be accessible.



The future, and what we can do to help

What's your vision for the NAD? What about for the deaf community?


The short answer of what I see for the NAD is to achieve equality for all deaf people in many areas including education, employment, and the enjoyment of life.

Deaf children and adults must have quality education to compete in jobs and enhance the quality of their everyday life. Employment opportunities must be equally accessible to deaf people without exception. All the programs and services available to the public must also be equally accessible to deaf people without exception. This includes the enjoyment of movies, television, restaurants, vacation spots, and the like. In addition, there must be equal access to professional services such as medical and mental health services, legal representation, courts, and government program.

In short, the vision is that deaf people are no longer treated like second class citizens but are treated equally like everyone else.

How can the deaf community help you in bettering the NAD?


There are several ways to help the NAD! The NAD is really a representation of the ideas, wishes, dreams, and goals of the deaf community. This means that the deaf community needs to share such ideas, wishes, dreams, and goals with the NAD. The NAD needs to hear from everyone. More importantly, the NAD can only survive if it has the deaf community as members who support it. Join us at the NAD to be part of the change for the better!

Do you have any advice for young deaf and hard of hearing people interested in law/politics?


My advice is to go for it! There are many deaf people now who are lawyers or work in politics. But we need many more! We need to become a part of the system that we seek to change. Change can only happen if we are working from within, and this becomes more possible when we increase the number of deaf people that are lawyers or working in politics.

Becoming a lawyer or getting a job in politics is not easy, but that is no reason to give up on such a goal. It takes a lot of hard work and study, but it is possible as evidenced by the many deaf people who are working in these fields now.


ABOUT HOWARD A. ROSENBLUM
Howard Rosenblum is, as of April 2011, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of the Deaf. He has been a Senior Attorney for the last nine years at Equip for Equality, a nonprofit organization designated as Illinois’ Protection and Advocacy entity, after nearly ten years with a private law firm. His legal practice for nineteen years has been in the areas of disability rights and special education. He has provided numerous workshops nationally and internationally on the Americans with Disability Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Mr. Rosenblum received his law degree from IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law (1992), and his Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Arizona (1988).

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