We placed a small flyer on the door of a social service agency in the Bronx with our name — New York Center for Law and Justice — offering a workshop that we were sponsoring on the subject of legal rights of the disabled. Over twenty deaf individuals from across the Bronx walked through the doors of the agency one cold and sunny early December morning. As we were preparing to leave, two hours later, a middle-aged man and his aging mother walked through the door. “Can you help my son, who is deaf,” the woman asked. “What is the legal problem?” “There is no legal problem,” the woman responded. “Then why are you here,” we asked a bit puzzled. The woman responded: “I saw the word ‘Justice’ on the flyer so I am here.”
For the next half hour, we spoke with Nancy, a retired kindergarten teacher, born on the island of St. John, and now a forty-year proud resident of the Bronx. Nancy had contracted German measles when she was pregnant with her son, David, and although Nancy was not certain, she thought that David could have been born deaf. After several months, David did not appear to respond to oral cues, so Nancy brought David to the local hospital in St. John and hospital personnel injected David with medication. As it turns out, in a possible tragic twist of fate, like destinies that change so suddenly with late summer storms in the Caribbean, Nancy learned later that it may have been the injections that caused David’s deafness.
Most days, David stays home with his mom, although he fiercely wishes to be independent. David worked for a fast food chain years ago, “cleaning around the counters, putting knives and forks in receptacles,” according to Nancy, but he was let go. Nancy has tried to secure vocational training for David, but there have been obstacles. Meantime, David smiles at us and through sign language tells us that he wants to work. Nancy wants David to work too; he needs a job, Nancy explains, both for his sense of dignity and because Nancy is worried that at home David may be regressing. David is so dedicated to working, in fact, that he often leaves home and volunteers to hand out flyers for businesses on the streets of the Bronx, “just to do something.”
As an organization, the law center did not intend, initially, to provide social services to the deaf community. But eager individuals like David continue to pass through our doors seeking justice, and searching for access to full and complete participation in our world. And Nancy has made a New Year’s resolution: she resolves to find David a job in this New Year. We will strive to help.
We are nearly upon January, and the symbol of the Roman god—
Janus — who is associated with doors and gateways and new beginnings, presses
upon our collective consciousness at the law center. Indeed, there are
appointed times in the year when we are reminded of the chance to begin again,
a hope embraced by Nancy, who brought David to a modest office in the Bronx
just because of a sign that she read on a door that included the word,
From all of us at the New York Center for Law
and Justice, we thank you for your great generosity and support over this past
year and we wish you a healthy and happy new year — a year filled with the
abundance of promise that arrives with all new beginnings.