Deaf Kansans struggle getting legal help. The state is trying to change that

Robert Cooper signing in an office © Provided by The Wichita Beacon


  • Deaf and hard of hearing Kansans may not meet with lawyers because of the communication barrier
  • There is a fund to fix this problem, but it isn’t being used enough
  • Not enough lawyers know how to request an interpreter

A deaf Kansas woman going through a divorce signed a separation agreement thinking she would receive $500 a month in alimony. 

But that alimony had never been agreed to.

“By the time (an attorney) reviewed the matter, it was well past the time to file an appeal,” said Leonard Hall, a lawyer at Hall Law Office in Olathe, Kansas. 

The woman had not been provided with an interpreter, so she struggled to talk to attorneys directly. Hall said that’s why she didn’t understand the agreement. 

She is far from alone.

Kansans who are deaf and hard of hearing don’t have enough access to legal services, advocates say. Interpreters or communication assistance are often not provided and some attorneys decline initial appointments when a person requests that help, said Robert Cooper, executive director of the Kansas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. 

“It’s not allowed. It’s illegal,” Cooper said through his interpreter. “It’s surprising it happens. (But) it’s reality.” 

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