Who is Claudia Gordon:
Claudia Gordon, Esq., is the first deaf lawyer who is African American and female, and also the first deaf student to graduate from the American University (AU) Washington College of Law, in Washington, DC, in 2000. At AU, Gordon specialized in disability rights law and policy. Since earning her juris doctorate from AU, Gordon has been active in working to ensure the rights of people with disabilities are respected.
Gordon was born in Jamaica and became deaf at age eight. After becoming deaf, she experienced discrimination in Jamaica. This discrimination is what inspired her to become a lawyer. In Jamaica, she could not get an education, so she moved to the United States where she attended first a public school, then the Lexington School for the Deaf in New York. It was at Lexington where she learned sign language.
Gordon’s Awards and Honors:
Gordon has been given many awards and honors. Prior to attending AU, Gordon graduated from Howard University in 1995 with a bachelor of arts in political science. At Howard, Gordon was a Patricia Robert Harris Public Affairs Fellow, a member of the Golden Key National Honor Society, and the Political Science Honor Society. More awards and honors came at American University, where she was an Equal Justice Foundation Fellow, had the Myers Law Scholarship, and the J. Franklin Bourne Scholarship. In 2002, she received the Paul G. Hearne/AAPD Leadership Award from the American Association of People with Disabilities.
Gordon’s Legal Career:
Gordon got the Skadden Fellowship (for law graduates working with disabled people) which paid for her to work at the National Association of the Deaf Law and Advocacy Center. This allowed Gordon to provide “Direct representation and advocacy for poor deaf persons with a particular emphasis on outreach to those who are members of minority groups.” Gordon became a consultant to the National Council on Disability, then joined the Department of Homeland Security. At Homeland Security, Gordon is the senior policy advisor for the Department of Homeland Security, Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
Gordon at Homeland Security:
At Homeland Security, Gordon’s focus is activities such as enforcing an executive order for Individuals with Disabilities in Emergency Preparedness. When Hurricane Katrina hit, Gordon’s efforts to ensure that the needs of disabled people were met in hurricane relief efforts earned her both the Gold Medal Award and the 2005 Hurricane Response Award from the Secretary of Homeland Security.
Gordon’s Organizational Activities:
Gordon has been active in both the black deaf community and the broader disability community. She was the vice president of the National Black Deaf Advocates. In 2004, she was named secretary of the Board for the Lexington Board of Directors. Gordon is also associated with the National Coalition for Disability Rights (ncdr.org), where she is part of their national governance.