If you visit the White House to meet with President Obama or a senior White House staff member, you’ll probably first be greeted by 27-year-old Leah Katz-Hernandez, the White House receptionist. She also oversees the White House guest book and the West Wing’s main meeting spot, the Roosevelt Room.
Katz-Hernandez is deaf and has an interpreter on hand to help with communications.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. She worked on political campaigns, at the U.S. Congress and in the nonprofit sector before being appointed first lady Michelle Obama’s press assistant and research associate.
“The White House is really a model for accessibility for people with disabilities — and especially for deaf people,” Katz-Hernandez told Fox News Latino. “I believe my story sends a good message about the abilities of people who are deaf and Latino to be successful anywhere.”
Along with her government career, Katz-Hernandez has been an active supporter of disability rights. The website Disability.gov reports she gained national attention during the 2008 presidential election with her blog The Deaf Perspective. She examined the U.S. political process through a series of video blogs in American Sign Language and emphasized the importance of being an informed voter.
Before the Americans With Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990, Katz-Hernandez would have faced incredible hurdles in getting people to recognize her many talents. Now, with the law celebrating its 25th anniversary, disabled people have an easier time advancing their careers — even to the White House!