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Interview with Carmen King about Deaf Rights and Accessibility under the Law

Updated: Jun 13, 2021

By: Katie Helde, J.D., Outgoing Chair of Community Outreach

Image description: Katie sits on the left side of the split screen in a dark blue shirt. Ms. King sits on the right side of the split screen in an orange coral shirt.

In May of 2021, at the culmination of my law school experience, I wished to conduct one last activity as the Coalition for Social Justice Chair of Community Outreach. I wished to explore the lived experience of accessibility and its flaws from the perspective of a Deaf New Yorker.

To explore the topics of Deaf rights and accessibility, I interviewed Carmen King, a Deaf teacher, theatre artist, interpreter, and advocate based in New York City. The interview explores Deaf culture, Deaf and disability education; and accessibility. It encourages us to think about how the legal field can better recognize and respect the agency and leadership of marginalized people, such as members of the Deaf community. Ms. King offers compelling insights about her culture, the nuances of oppression, and intersectional growth.

The interview was conducted in American Sign Language, with voiceover interpretation and English captions. I hope you find the opportunity to watch it.

As a sign language interpreter, I have had the opportunity to interact with and learn from Deaf culture, and think often of the tensions between our legal framework and social justice movements. Our legal doctrines often compel us to frame those seeking civil rights as victims who have been wronged. This victimhood framing - while sometimes accurate and beneficial - can also mischaracterize and patronize people who are agents in their own right. I hope this dialogue encourages us, as a legal community, to challenge the assumptions that we have internalized and to grow into a respectful and nuanced understanding of social justice and public interest work.

Thank you, dear reader, for your time, and may the St. John’s School of Law community continue to reach out to, uplift, and learn from marginalized people.

Peace and love and solidarity,

Katie Helde

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