HEARD is an all-volunteer nonprofit organziation that was incorporated in the District of Columbia on February 18, 2011. HEARD has volunteers nationwide who conduct deaf prisoner/defendant research, assist deaf incarcerated individuals with access issues, investigate possible wrongful conviction cases, and educate the Deaf community about the law and current legal issues, and educate attorneys, among other things.
HEARD empowers the Deaf, legal and law enforcement 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 (Former Board Member, Current 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 (Former Interim President, Current Board Member, Florida)
Rev. Mark Ehrlichmann is deaf and an ordained minister, volunteer prison chaplain, advocate, and counselor. He has provided services for Deaf, DeafBlind, Deaf-Disabled, Hard of Hearing, and Hearing in both the community and in prison for over 10 years. He has served as vice-president and Interim President for HEARD, served as a board member for Maryland Association of Deaf, and on the Maryland Governor's Advisory Board for Telecommunications Relay. He has volunteered at institutions in the following States: Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, DC, Delaware, and now starting in Florida. His current focus is on developing and collaborating on criminal justice advocacy services. Mark has been in ministry since 1998. He received a Master of Divinity degree in 2007, and was ordained in 2008. He is also a Maryland Licensed Certified Medical Technician. Completed the Baltimore City Police Chaplaincy Academy Program in 2016, including Pastoral Care in Crisis in Effective Trauma Response.
Walker Estes (Board Member, Louisisana)
Walker Estes is Deaf and a retired state employee. Currently I am a certified mentor with the Louisiana Department of Corrections and a volunteer chaplain to several prisons here in Louisiana. Currently, I am a board member of HEARD, board member of Capitol Area Deaf Education and Advocacy Force, secretary of Greater New Orleans Association of the Deaf, and board member of Louisiana School for the Deaf Foundation. I have been served in several capacities (officers) in many organizations serving the Deaf Community. I teaches American Sign Language to the community for 20 years. Holds Commercial Driver's License to drive school bus for 30 years.
Scott Huffman (Board Member, Louisisana)
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. Louisiana native Scott Huffman, became a Deaf Access to Justice Activist in 2011 while living with 10 Deaf men at Rayburn Correctional Center. Scott learned American Sign Language unconventionally. While serving a five-year sentence in the Louisiana Department of Corrections, Mr. Huffman formed close relationships with Deaf men who were/are serving time there. He witnessed, first hand, the injustices that happen to the DDBDDHH Community within the criminal legal system. After being released in 2013, Scott immediately enrolled in Baton Rouge Community College (BRCC). After finishing there he enrolled at William Woods University where he is working on a dual major Bachelor's Degree in English to ASL Interpretation & Business Administration. In 2015, he became Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf's (HEARD) newest boardmember. Sc
Talila "TL" Lewis (Volunteer Director & Board Advisor, New York & Washington, DC)
Recognized as a 2015 White House Champion of Change and one of Pacific Standard Magazine's Top 30 Thinkers Under 30, Talila engineers & leads innovative and intersectional social justice campaigns that illuminate and address grave injustices within our legal system that have gone unaddressed for decades. Talila's advocacy primarily focuses on creating equal access to the legal system for people with disabilities & individuals who are Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled & Hard of Hearing. As one of the only people in the world working on deaf wrongful conviction cases, Talila regularly presents at universities; testifies before legislative & regulatory bodies; and trains members of congress, attorneys, and law enforcement about this and other disability-related topics. As the creator of the only national deaf prisoner database, Talila advocates with & for hundreds of deaf defendants, prisoners & returned citizens. Talila has served as the volunteer director of HEARD since its inception, and Talila works in a number of different communities to combat mass incarceration, poverty and structural inequality. Talila is a visiting professor at Rochester Institute of Technology/National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and a recent graduate of American University Washington College of Law who has received awards from numerous universities, the American Bar Association, the American Association for People with Disabilities, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, the Nation Institute, National Black Deaf Advocates and EBONY magazine, among others.
Hezzy Smith (Interim Treasurer, New Jersey)
Hezzy Smith is a Fulbright award-winning attorney with over eight years of on-the-ground experience working with and training persons with disabilities and their allies in the United States, Bangladesh, Mexico, and beyond. He has helped DPOs and lawyers in Bangladesh overturn a bar on blind persons joining the Bangladesh civil service, trained judges in Mexico on applying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, intervened as amicus curiae in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, served as expert witness in U.S. removal proceedings against Mexican nationals with psychiatric disabilities, and advised the UN on sterilization policies. He currently coordinates a pilot project on supported decision-making at Hunter College, City University of New York, while directing the Latin America and Bangladesh activities of the Harvard Law School Project on Disability. He holds a J.D. from American University and B.A. from Harvard University.
Past Board Members & Board Advisors
Robert Malka (Former 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.
Kayleigh Marshall (Former Board Member)
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 (Immediate Past Interim 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 (Inauguaral Treasurer)
Ever is a financial consultant who volunteers her time to individuals and organizations that focus on effecting a positive change.
Maxwell "Max" Shea (Former 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 (Former 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 (Former 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.