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Growing Up Deaf - Amy Rowley and Me

Historic Court Case


Updated July 25, 2009

Growing Up Deaf Serial

What does a teen-ager have in common with a pre-teen?

In the early 1980s, what we had in common was that we both needed interpreters. She needed a sign language interpreter, and I needed an oral interpreter. "She" was Amy Rowley, whose parents took their school district to court in a case that made its way all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, only to lose.

The justification given by the court then was that a high-achieving deaf child or teen does not need additional services. No thought is given to the fact that deafness is a communication disability, and the fact that without an interpreter a deaf student will miss much of what goes on in a hearing classroom.

About the same time that the Rowley case was making its way through the courts, I was beginning to struggle in school and recognized that I needed an interpreter. We went before our local board of education to ask for an interpreter, knowing we would probably lose. We did lose -- as in the Rowley case, they looked at my report card and exclaimed, "Look at all those "A's." This kid does not need an interpreter!"

The irony of it is, today interpreting services are commonly provided in schools.

More Rowley case resources:

  • Wrightslaw: Amy Rowley - Text of the 1982 Supreme Court case decision.
  • A Case About Amy (book)
  • Amy: The Story of a Deaf Child (book)- Not so much about Amy's case as about growing up deaf.

Growing Up Deaf Serial

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