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Breaking barriers: How NLAS intervention saved a deaf mother’s journey to legal custody

Breaking barriers: How NLAS intervention saved a deaf mother’s journey to legal custody

By Njeri RL Njogu

Mary, (not her real name), is a deaf woman who faced the daunting task of navigating the legal journey to secure custody of her child.

As a sign language interpreter at the National Legal Aid Service, I had the chance to support Mary in her quest to obtain custody of her child, a journey that exemplifies the transformative power of effective communication and legal advocacy.

My role not only as a sign language interpreter but also a legal aid provider enabled me to walk with Mary through the journey from the time she visited our office, starting by ensuring that she understood her rights, the legal process, and the options available.

Mary opted for mediation where I facilitated communication between her and the mediator, ensuring that her perspective was accurately conveyed and understood.

Through clear and accessible communication in sign language, I empowered Mary to actively participate in mediation sessions, where she could raise concerns for her child's best interests which I explained to the mediator.

Through our collaborative efforts of signing and interpreting, Mary was able to present compelling arguments supported by evidence, demonstrating her capability as a loving and responsible parent. Since Mary and the other party could not agree over the child’s custody during the mediation process, we advised her to proceed to court.

I continued to assist her with the court process, providing interpretation services during virtual and physical court mentions, and hearings as well as her training on self-representation. Despite facing challenges and setbacks along the way, Mary remained resilient and determined to reunite with her child and through our collective advocacy efforts and unwavering support, Mary's perseverance paid off. In the final decision, the court granted her custody of her child, recognizing her parental rights and the importance of preserving family unity.

Mary’s journey is a testament of the transformative impact of sign language interpretation in facilitating access to justice to everyone irrespective of physical condition. By breaking down communication barriers and empowering marginalized voices, we can pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable legal system.

Mary’s successful legal journey shows our commitment to continue championing legal rights for all regardless of disability or circumstance as prescribed in our Motto, “Haki na Usawa Kwa Wote” (Justice and Equity for All).


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