Profile in Advocacy: Rachel Arfa

By Scarola, Dawn | Volta Voices, May/June 2006 | Go to article overview

Profile in Advocacy: Rachel Arfa


Scarola, Dawn, Volta Voices


Rachel Arfa's profound hearing loss was diagnosed at age 18 months. A member of AG Bell's Deaf and Hard of Hearing section (DHHS), Arfa attended her first AG Bell convention at age 4 in 1982 and has attended every convention since.

Arfa credits the convention experience-a network of great friends and peers with hearing loss with whom she could identify, an awareness of what the world could and should be like for individuals with hearing loss and a place to learn about the latest technology-as a motivating factor for her involvement in advocacy work.

While at the University of Michigan, Arfa participated in several summer internships, including two that brought her to Washington, D.C. One summer, she interned in the office of (former) Illinois Senator Carol Moseley-Braun and later worked in the White House in the office of First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, gaining experience in both the legislative and executive branches.

After graduating, Arfa returned to Washington, D.C., and worked at the law firm of Arnold & Porter as a legal assistant and in Senator Patrick Leahy's office on the Senate Judiciary Committee in the area of judicial nominations. Realizing that law school would equip her to become an effective advocate, Arfa applied and was accepted to the University of Wisconsin School of Law, where she is a second-year student. She is currently finishing up an externship at the Wisconsin Department of Justice in the Consumer Protection Unit.

Volta Voices: Tell us about your job as a nominations clerk on the Senate Judiciary Committee for Senator Patrick Leahy.

Rachel Arfa: I spent three exciting, high-pressure years working for Senator Leahy on judicial and executive branch nominations. Every day was different from the next, but in general I worked for top-notch attorneys to help prepare for nominations hearings, which 1 also attended. After seeing the nature of the work these attorneys did, I knew that obtaining a law degree was the next goal I wanted to achieve.

VV: Did being a strong self-advocate influence your decision to go to law school and learn to advocate for others? What area of law will you practice when you graduate?

RA: I have spent much of my life advocating for myself and I wanted to attend law school to learn how to advocate for others. I am learning new advocacy skills, different ways to approach legal problems and how to use the law to create solutions.

A law degree provides many different options and I don't want to limit myself to one field. Currently, I have a strong interest in consumer protection law.

VV: You're going to intern at the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C., this summer. What will you be doing there? How will this advance your professional goals?

RA: I will be working for Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour and learning more about the area of consumer protection. As a former hearing aid and current cochlear implant user, 1 have always been an active consumer. I was always the only person who knew if my hearing aid or cochlear implant was working, so it was up to me to remain an informed consumer and know if the product I use daily is working the way it should.

Consumer law is relevant to everyone because buying things is a daily activity. It applies to products, communications, business practices, healthcare-a wide gamut of relevant and important issues. …

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