I’m Elizabeth Knox
In the mid-1980s my parents knew there was something wrong with my hearing, but they had to beg doctors to examine me. I was only a few months old. The doctors would clap, I would respond, and they would decide my hearing was just fine. My parents persisted and finally found a doctor who took their concerns seriously. Not long after, I was diagnosed with a bilateral sensorineural profound hearing loss. That was just the beginning. My parents enrolled me in the infant program at the Sunshine Cottage School for Deaf Children. The incredible teachers there taught me to communicate orally, without sign language. From there, I was mainstreamed into the public school system. Twelve years later, I graduated from high school with high honors, then went to Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.
At Southwestern, I was the first disability student fellow — I helped the student services office ensure that students with disabilities were getting their legally required accommodations. I also overhauled both the accommodations request and complaint processes and made it simple for students (including me!) to make sure their professors knew about their accommodations.
After college, I decided to pursue my passion for disability issues and civil rights, so I applied to law school. I spent three wonderful years at Harvard Law School, and then I clerked for a federal judge. As a part of my legal training, I spent time doing impact litigation on behalf of people with disabilities at a nonprofit and also spent time at the Department of Education and the Department of Justice, in their civil rights divisions. As a research assistant, I analyzed international and United Nations disability policies and practices. I have been working on education and disability issues since then.
People tell me that my path is extraordinary given the extent of my hearing loss. But here’s the thing: I don’t think it is. I think every person with a disability should have better opportunities than I had.
The story I just told doesn’t come close to detailing the hard work that my parents and hundreds of professionals dedicated to getting me here. All of those people helped me access my dream. I hope you will let me help you access yours.
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Access the Dream
Elizabeth Knox is an attorney, speaker on inclusion and accessibility, consultant, and self-advocacy coach.