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From Self-Advocacy to Professional Arguing

Anat Maytal says she’s not surprised that she picked a profession where she is allowed to argue for a living. She’s been arguing and advocating for herself her entire life.

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Written By: Kirsten Ballard

Anat Maytal says she’s not surprised that she picked a profession where she is allowed to argue for a living. She’s been arguing and advocating for herself her entire life. She wears a hearing aid in her left ear and had surgery for a cochlear implant in her right ear back in October 2013.

Anat is an associate at Baker & Hostetler LLP in New York where she focuses her practice on complex commercial litigation and employment law in both state and federal courts. “I’m very fortunate to become a lawyer and to be in a position where I can contribute and try to make the legal system work for others who really need it and can’t afford it,” she says. She juggles pro bono work and is also the co-founder of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association.

“I decided to pursue this profession because I was passionate about the law, in terms of shaping it and interpreting it in ways that will help those in need,” she says. “Growing up with my hearing disability, I have had to continually advocate for myself because many people in the hearing world assume negative stereotypes about the [community of people who are deaf and hard of hearing].”

She had some insecurities about pursuing a law career, acknowledging that she didn’t know any lawyers who are deaf and hard of hearing. “Before the Americans With Disabilities Act, the very idea of an attorney with a disability was so out of reach,” she says. “You can and should pursue your dreams and know that there is always a way to make what you (or others) think is impossible, possible. I’ve had so many naysayers in my life and I was determined to prove each and every one of them wrong.”

Anat was a recipient of the George H. Nofer Scholarship for Law and Public Policy, which she learned about through an AG Bell newsletter. It provided a scholarship for her to attend Boston University Law School.

“[The university was] incredibly accommodating and understanding. They provided me with what’s called CART reporting, which is the acronym for Communications Access Realtime Translation, which is essentially real-time captioning or the equivalent of what a court reporter does more or less,” she says. “As lawyers know, in law school, there’s a lot of dialogue back and forth between the professors and students. It’s not a straight lecture. You have to be very alert and prepared to be called on. The transcription really helped me capture what anyone was saying, whether it was the professor or other students.”

Practicing law with a hearing impairment requires self-advocacy to get the accommodations she needs. From asking permission to bring a frequency modular (FM) microphone to place on the judge’s bench to using Live Note, a software that does live transcriptions for depositions, Anat has found solutions to overcome obstacles.

“Federal court is slightly easier in that you have the option to secure captioning, by which you can connect wirelessly to the court reporter via a laptop and see their transcription of the hearing,” she says. “[It] is not perfect but it helps—and free of cost to attorneys with disabilities. That’s not a service that’s readily available in the state court given the lack of funding.”

Another challenge she faces are her adversaries on the other side of the table. “I’ve had cases where opposing counsel would try to intimidate me by covering his mouth, so I couldn’t lip-read… Or another attorney would try to speak quietly and away from me. I had one counsel actually accuse me of faking my disability,” she says. “At that point, you really just have to stand up for yourself… Ultimately, you can’t let these situations get to you, because at the end of the day those kinds of tactics won’t help them win the case.”

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De la defensa de los propios intereses a la «pelea» profesional

Anat Maytal asegura que no le sorprende haber elegido una profesión en la que se le permite “pelear” para ganarse la vida. Ha estado peleando y defendiendo sus intereses toda la vida. Utiliza un audífono en el oído izquierdo y se sometió a una intervención quirúrgica para recibir un implante coclear en el oído derecho en octubre de 2013.

Anat es asociada de Baker & Hostetler LLP, Nueva York, donde enfoca su práctica en litigios comerciales complejos y derecho laboral en los tribunales estatales y federales. «Soy muy afortunada por haberme convertido en abogada y encontrarme en una posición en la que puedo contribuir y tratar de conseguir que el sistema legal funcione para otras personas que realmente lo necesitan y no se lo pueden permitir», dice. También realiza trabajos pro bono y es cofundadora del Colegio de abogados con sordera e hipoacusia (Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association).

«Decidí estudiar esta profesión porque me apasionaba el derecho, en cuanto a ejercerlo e interpretarlo de manera que ayude a las personas que lo necesiten», asegura. «Al crecer con discapacidad auditiva, he tenido que defender mis derechos constantemente porque muchas personas con una audición normal asumen estereotipos negativos sobre la comunidad de personas con sordera e hipoacusia».

Tenía algunas inseguridades acerca de estudiar la carrera de derecho, siendo consciente de que no conocía a ningún abogado con sordera o hipoacusia. “Antes de la ADA (Ley de estadounidenses con discapacidades), la sola idea de un abogado con discapacidad estaba totalmente fuera de alcance», asegura. «Puedes y debes perseguir tus sueños y saber que siempre hay una manera de hacer posible lo que tú crees (u otras personas creen) que es imposible. En mi vida ha habido muchos detractores y estaba decidida a demostrar que todos y cada uno de ellos estaban equivocados».

Anat recibió la beca George H. Nofer para Derecho y Políticas Públicas, de la que se enteró a través de un boletín de AG Bell. Le proporcionó una beca para asistir a la Facultad de Derecho de la Boston University.

«[La universidad] fue increíblemente servicial y comprensiva. Me facilitaron lo que se denomina CART Reporting, que es el acrónimo (en inglés) de «acceso a la comunicación a través de la transcripción en tiempo real», que consiste básicamente en subtítulos en tiempo real o, más o menos, el equivalente al trabajo de un taquígrafo judicial”, explica. «Como saben los abogados, en la facultad de derecho existe mucho diálogo entre profesores y alumnos. No es una clase normal. Debes estar muy alerta y preparado para que te llamen. La transcripción me ayudó a captar lo que alguien decía, tanto si era  el profesor como otros alumnos».

Para practicar la abogacía con una discapacidad auditiva se necesita defender los propios derechos para conseguir las adaptaciones necesarias. Desde pedir permiso para colocar un micrófono de frecuencia modular (FM) en el estrado hasta utilizar Live Note, un software que realiza transcripciones en vivo de las declaraciones, Anat encuentra soluciones para superar los obstáculos.

«En el tribunal federal es un poco más fácil, porque tienes la opción de obtener subtítulos con una conexión inalámbrica al taquígrafo judicial a través de una computadora portátil y acceder a la transcripción de la vista», dice. «No es perfecto pero sirve de ayuda y no tiene costo alguno para los abogados con discapacidades. No es un servicio que se encuentre fácilmente disponible en el tribunal estatal debido a la falta de fondos».

Otro reto al que se enfrenta son sus adversarios al otro lado de la mesa. «He tenido casos en los que el abogado de la otra parte ha tratado de intimidarme tapándose la boca, para que no le pudiera leer los labios… En otros casos, el abogado hablaba en voz baja y alejándose de mí. Incluso, un abogado me llegó a acusar de fingir discapacidad», añade. «Llegados a este punto, debes defenderte… En última instancia, no puedes dejar que estas situaciones te afecten porque, al fin y al cabo, este tipo de prácticas no les ayudan a ganar los casos».

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