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 a woman named Leah Katz-Hernandez. Her official title is Receptionist of the United States (ROTUS). 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.
In the United States, October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which raises awareness about disability issues in the workplace and recognizes the contributions workers with disabilities make daily as part of their jobs.
The theme for 2015 is “My Disability Is One Part of Who I Am,” and the U.S. Labor Department’s Jennifer Sheehy said it “encapsulates the important message that people with disabilities are just that – people.” Those living with a disability bring an important perspective to their jobs and other areas of their lives, she said, “but, of course, it’s not the only one.”
Katz-Hernandez told Fox News Latino “The White House is really a model for accessibility for people with disabilities — and especially for deaf people,” and that her own 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.
Now, in her role as ROTUS, she brings her many talents to serve President Obama and her White House colleagues.