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Beyond the Limits

Students have had a uniquely difficult time during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Andi Kasri Unrut’s no exception. Andi – his friends call him Akas – studies law at the Esa Unggul University in West Jakarta, Indonesia, and was recently awarded AG Bell’s George H. Nofer Scholarship. Akas, who is deaf, said the scholarship, first and foremost, allowed him the peace of mind to continue with his education during the pandemic. 

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Written By: Cam Ellis

Students have had a uniquely difficult time during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Andi Kasri Unru’s no exception. Andi – his friends call him Akas – studies law at the Esa Unggul University in West Jakarta, Indonesia, and was recently awarded AG Bell’s George H. Nofer Scholarship. Akas, who is deaf, said the scholarship, first and foremost, allowed him the peace of mind to continue with his education during the pandemic.

“The Nofer Scholarship has provided many opportunities in my life so far,” he said. “The opportunity to receive legal education without having to worry about finances – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a lot of financial impact on my family – the opportunity to meet people of different and unique diversity, the opportunity to advocate for the rights of individuals with disabilities – especially the human rights of deaf and hard of hearing individuals – and other opportunities that I cannot describe here enough. In the end, this scholarship has led me to become a lawyer in the future.”

For now, Akas continues to work towards passing the bar exam, though he admitted that finding work and internships in the meantime has been tough. He’s been able to remain active in several organizations that work “to remove the label of disability, and [remove] the slanted label of ‘sick’ and ‘incapable’ on persons with disabilities,” as well as “breaking down barriers of segregation, and eliminating discriminatory practices against persons with disabilities.” The challenges don’t stop once he gets a foot in the door, though: Akas spoke at length about how difficult it is to be hard of hearing while everyone in the office is wearing masks.

“I’m a [person who is deaf] who communicates by reading the lips of the speaker,” he added. “And when someone uses a mask, I have difficulty communicating because [their] mouth is covered … so that I cannot understand what he or she is saying.

“At first, I had a hard time finding an internship at a law office – and this was also the case for my friend, who is deaf. Maybe they’re not ready to hire a [person who is deaf], and don’t know how to hire [one].”

Another instance saw Akas getting accosted by a security guard over asking for directions because, as he tells it, the guard mistook his hearing aid for a bluetooth speaker and insisted that Akas remove it so he could hear the instructions. Regardless, the difficulties aren’t stopping Akas from pursuing a career in law, and they certainly aren’t getting in the way of his drive to help others. His advice for others with hearing loss is to read diligently and keep up with “information that is constantly moving.” That, and some handy organizational skills, all combine for what he calls a “strong leadership spirit.”

“Don’t let other people control your destiny,” he said.  “We may be limited in hearing, but not by our minds. Becoming a lawyer requires high social sensitivity because we are here to help people who do not get their rights and put a smile on their face.”

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Superando los límites

Los estudiantes han vivido una época excepcionalmente difícil durante la pandemia de COVID-19 y Andi Kasri Unrut no es la excepción. Andi (sus amigos le llaman Akas) estudia derecho en la Universidad Esa Unggul en Yakarta Occidental, Indonesia, y recibió recientemente la beca George H. Nofer de AG Bell. Akas, que tiene sordera, afirmó que la beca le había permitido, ante todo, tener la paz mental para continuar con su educación durante la pandemia.

«La beca Nofer me ha facilitado muchas oportunidades en la vida hasta el momento», explica. La oportunidad de recibir una educación jurídica sin tener que preocuparme por el aspecto económico, especialmente durante la pandemia de COVID-19, que ha tenido un gran impacto económico en mi familia; la oportunidad de conocer a personas con una gran diversidad y singularidad; la oportunidad de reivindicar los derechos de las personas con discapacidades, especialmente los derechos humanos de las personas con sordera e hipoacusia; y otras oportunidades en las que ahora no me puedo extender. Al final, esta beca me ayudará a convertirme en abogado en el futuro».

En estos momentos, Akas sigue trabajando para aprobar el examen de acceso a la abogacía, si bien admite que, mientras tanto, le ha sido difícil encontrar trabajo y prácticas profesionales. Ha podido mantenerse activo en varias organizaciones que trabajan «para eliminar la etiqueta de discapacidad y la etiqueta sesgada de “enfermas” e “incapaces” que se aplican a las personas con discapacidades», así como «para derribar las barreras de segregación y eliminar las prácticas discriminatorias contra las personas con discapacidades». No obstante, los retos no desaparecen una vez que se pone un pie en la puerta: Akas habla extensamente sobre lo difícil que resulta tener hipoacusia cuando todo el mundo en las oficinas utiliza mascarillas.

«Soy una persona con sordera que se comunica leyendo los labios del hablante», añade. «Cuando alguien utiliza una mascarilla, me cuesta comunicarme porque tiene la boca tapada… por lo que no puedo entender lo que está diciendo».

«Al principio, me costó mucho encontrar un bufete de abogados donde realizar prácticas profesionales y lo mismo le ocurrió a un amigo mío que también tiene sordera. Es posible que no estén preparados para contratar a una persona con sordera y no sepan cómo hacerlo».

En otra ocasión Akas tuvo un problema con un guardia de seguridad al preguntarle por una dirección porque, en sus propias palabras, el guardia confundió el audífono que llevaba con un altavoz bluetooth e insistía en que Akas se lo quitara para que pudiera oír las instrucciones. Sin embargo, las dificultades no impiden que Akas estudie una carrera de derecho y es evidente que no se interponen en su camino para ayudar a otras personas. Su consejo para otras personas con pérdida auditiva es leer con diligencia y mantenerse al día de la «información que está en constante movimiento». Junto con algunas habilidades organizativas útiles, se combinan en lo que considera un «fuerte espíritu de liderazgo».

«No deje que otras personas controlen su destino», concluye.  «Es posible que estemos limitados por la audición, pero no por nuestra mente. En la abogacía se necesita una gran sensibilidad social porque nuestra labor es ayudar a las personas a ejercer sus derechos e iluminarles el rostro con una sonrisa».

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