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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lisalee D. Egbert

Can People Who are Deaf Serve in the Military? One Man's Quest to Say, Yes!

Updated: May 9, 2023

Keith Nolan had always wanted to serve in the military. He was told, No, Deaf people can't do that. So he became a teacher until one day he heard himself telling a student the same thing, No, you can't do that because you are Deaf. That really got him to thinking and doing some research. What he found may surprise you. He now is on a quest to change how people view the abilities and potential contributions of those who have disabilities or who are Deaf.

In 2011 he gave a TED talk in which he described his experiences with Army ROTC at Cal State Northridge in California. Since then he has continued his work to push for Deaf people to enter into the military. He, along with Senator Takano, have been working on a bill that would allow just that. He has also been addressing the concerns of the military one by one. Plus he has started an ROTC program at Maryland School for the Deaf for Deaf cadets.

His most recent video, "Let Us Work: Deaf in the Military" points out how Deaf people have served in the past (U.S. history shows us this) and how they're serving now (There are Deaf soldiers in Israel) and how they have many unique abilities and skills that could be made use of. And that brings us to the main point here: If we say that people who have disabilities are not to be seen as "inspirational" or "brave" just because they got out of bed as Stella Young mentioned in her TED talk, then it's important that we take the next step: Let Them Work: in all fields in which they are capable. And let them be the judge of what they are capable of accomplishing. Because if we can do that, if we can embrace all ways of learning, all ways of experiencing life and solving problems, who knows where the next generation of ideas will come from.

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