HEARD was incorporated in the District of Columbia in February 2011. HEARD has volunteers nationwide who conduct deaf prisoner/defendant research, assist deaf prisoners with access issues, investigate possible wrongful conviction cases, and educate the Deaf community about the law and current legal issues, among other things.
HEARD empowers the Deaf and legal communities by providing education about individual rights, and Deaf culture and communication, respectively. HEARD created and maintains the nation's only deaf prisoner database, and is working to increase representation of the deaf in the legal profession by connecting deaf youth with legal education organizations, law schools, and law firms.
Patricia "Pat" Bliss (Board Advisor)
Pat has worked as a criminal defense paralegal for ten years and as a librarian for six years. She has volunteered with American Red Cross and with sick-and-shut-in persons through her church for nearly a decade. Pat became a Prison Fellowship Ministry volunteer in 1993, and she also is a member of Kairos Prison Ministry and Abe Brown Prison Ministry in Florida. She began a prisoner pen pal ministry in 1993 that continues to this day. She entered the legal profession as a paralegal in 1994 focusing on pro bono advocacy for indigent wrongly convicted individuals. She has been Felix Garcia's advocate for fifteen years. In addition to ongoing pro bono advocacy, Pat is a certified Church of God Chaplain.
Mark Ehrlichmann (Interim President)
Mark has served as a board member for Maryland Association of Deaf, and on the MD Governor's Advisory Board for Telecommunications Relay. He is also a certified registered volunteer at Maryland Correctional Institute, Jessup, MD, Correctional Treatment Facility, Washington, DC, and Baltimore County Detention Center, Towson, MD. He works as a para-educator at a special needs school in the Baltimore area and focuses his missionary work on Deaf Prison Ministry and Aftercare Program Development for the East Coast. Some of his projects include round table discussions on justice system issues for the Deaf Community, mentor training workshops, parenting classes, establishing a tutor program at local state prisons, advocacy, and counseling services. Mark has been in ministry since 1998. He received a Master of Divinity degree in 2007, and was ordained in 2008.
Talila "TL" Lewis (Founder & Board Advisor)
TL is an attorney-activist who strives to make universal access to the justice system a reality.
TL, is one of the only people in the nation who has worked on multiple deaf wrongful conviction cases, and has worked since 2007 to correct and prevent wrongful convictions involving Deaf individuals that often stem from cross-cultural miscommunication between deaf and hearing individuals. TL also works to ensure that Deaf prisoners and defendants receive equal access to the legal system by educating hearing justice professionals.
In addition to corresponding with and advocating with & for hundreds of deaf prisoners, TL has testified in front of numerous legislative bodies; and trained congress members, attorneys, government officials, and corrections employees about Deaf Culture and communication.
TL leads HEARD’s Deaf Prisoner Phone Justice Campaign which works to ensure that tens of thousands of deaf prisoners and their family members have access to accessible telecommunications in jails and prisons, including videophones, captioned telephones, and other auxiliary aids. TL worked closely with Al Jazeera America producers for more than two years on a documentary, “Deaf In Prison,” and spearheaded a “Know Your Rights” campaign with the American Civil Liberties Union and Marlee Matlin to curtail police brutality against deaf people. TL writes extensively about discrimination against deaf and disabled people within the justice, legal and corrections systems & actively resists institutional oppression that perpetuates this status quo.
TL graduated from American University Washington College of Law in May 2014, and has received awards for outstanding community service from Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, the American Association for People with Disabilities, EBONY Magazine, the Nation Institute and the American Bar Association, among others.
Robert Malka (Board Member)
Robert Malka is Chief Operations Officer and Co-Founder of Malka Communications Group, an international telecommunications company dedicated to improving communication access for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing. Through MCG, he has managed to improve communication access in everything from disaster relief, to airport security, to the welfare of entire Deaf communities in other parts of the world. He is a CODA and has been an interpreter for close to two decades, and interpreted professionally for the past six years.
He currently attends St. John's College, Santa Fe, a liberal college focused on the Great Books of Western Tradition, which has deeply affected how he sees, interprets, and reacts to the world. He is expected to receive his B.A. in the Liberal Arts in May 2015. When he is not in school, working on his company, or volunteering for HEARD, he is avidly dancing Lindy Hop, practicing Kenpo (a martial art), learning a language, or diving in shipwrecks.
Rachel K. Pilloff (Board Advisor)
Rachel is a patent attorney at Lowe, Hauptman & Ham, where she drafts and prosecutes utility and plant patent applications, as well as counsels clients in all biotechnology areas. Intermixed with her patent practice, Rachel provides pro bono assistance and representation to underserved populations in a variety of legal proceedings, primarily relating to disability rights and discrimination based on disability. Rachel is pleased to serve as a HEARD board advisor, complementing her representation of deaf and hard of hearing individuals in language access and disability rights issues.
Andy Petejan (Incoming Treasurer)
Andy served as treasurer for Maryland Association of the Deaf for about two years and contributes his time assisting deaf people and organziations to achieve various objectives. Currently he works as an economist.
Everita "Ever" Safra (Interim Treasurer)
Ever is a financial consultant who volunteers her time to individuals and organizations that focus on effecting a positive change.
Maxwell "Max" Shea (Board Member)
Maxwell Shea, a New Jersey native, grew up most of his life in the hearing world. He discovered his deaf identity when he relocated to Washington, DC. He first joined HEARD as an intern whose mission was to improve access to the justice system for deaf individuals. Max now serves as an Advocate & Board Member with HEARD, and has gained a great deal of advocacy and legal experience on disability and prisoners’ rights.
With this background, he decided to expand his knowledge and experience by obtaining a paralegal certificate from George Mason University in Fall 2013. Around that time, Max also became involved in the newly rebranded organization, Deaf in Government, serving as a Recording Secretary; and in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network, serving as a Representative.
In the future, Max plans to become an attorney and aims to improve legal access to and equality for the deaf community. This, he believes will help the deaf community to overcome barriers of communicating in the hearing world. Max is anticipating attending graduate school at Gallaudet University in Fall 2014 to receive a Master’s of Public Administration. He will encourage fellow students to take an interest in the legal field, and plans to establish Phi Delta Phi, a prelaw honor society, with Professor David Penna.
In his spare time, Max likes to lift weights, read politics daily and trying new restaurants with friends.
Shay Taylor (Interim Vice President)
Shay is a sign language interpreter and veteran teacher of visual media. She earned her first Master's degree in Education, and currently hold two Masters Certificates in Bilingual Special Education and Deaf Culture Studies. She achieved National Board Certification for teaching Early Adolescents and Young Adults in 2010. In the past Shay has been active with various associations of the Deaf, interpreter groups, and educational councils. She is proud to be a part of the founding of HEARD, and works to promote its potential for improving the experience of Deaf in the legal system, and educate legal professionals on cultural awareness and sensitivity.
Debbie F. Titus (Board Member)
Debbie has been a community organizer and volunteer in the local community for ten years. She also has worked as a paralegal aide in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area for more than ten years.