March 13-15, 2016 • San Diego, CA


3/14/2016  |   8:10 AM - 9:00 AM   |  Golden Pacific Ballroom

Our Journey to Remove Barriers

This semi-biographical presentation will take you through three generations of women in early intervention advocacy, from 1950s to the current day. Leah Katz-Hernandez, representative of today's generation, will share about the impact early invention has had on her grandmother, mother, and finally her own life. This presentation is a rare opportunity to learn about the background of American early intervention intertwined with a unique family story. In the 1950s, a Jewish-American mother discovered her infant was profoundly deaf. This mother, Lee Katz would navigate various experiences common to many hearing parents of deaf children. Lee Katz eventually combined her experience, network, and advocacy expertise to establish the International Association of Parents of Deaf in 1967. Today, this organization is known as the American Society for Deaf Children. The deaf daughter, Lizabeth Katz, grew up in a hearing household and developed a passion for helping other deaf people and their families with communication. At college in California, Liz met her husband, Ricardo Hernandez, and started their family with two deaf children - Leah and Daniel. The family settled in Connecticut and Maryland, with both parents earning advanced degrees - a Masters in Social work for Liz Katz and a Ph.D. in Adult Literacy for Ricardo Hernandez. Daniel is a successful artist today, with his work being shown in multiple art shows and galleries. For Leah, deafness has been a spur - not an obstacle - to a career in public service. Prior to her current position at the West Wing of the White House, Leah has worked on the Capitol Hill, on national presidential campaigns, and for nonprofits. Leah's extraordinary experiences has expanded her optimistic insight regarding education and career opportunities for future generations of deaf children that she looks forward to sharing with you.

  • Learn about the background of a historical figure in Early Intervention, Lee Katz.
  • Recognize the importance of community, friendships, and culture of sign language in supporting career advancement.
  • Understand how early sign language acquisition impacts adult career development.

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Leah Katz-Hernandez (POC,Primary Presenter), American University, Leah_B_Katz-Hernandez@who.eop.gov;
In February 2015, Leah Katz-Hernandez was hired as the West Wing Receptionist for the President - a position commonly known as 'ROTUS,' or Receptionist of the United States. With a desk just steps away from the Oval Office, Leah welcomes the President's guests into the West Wing Lobby. In her personal capacity, Leah travels abroad to advocate for civil rights for the deaf.

Ms. Katz-Hernandez is also a current student at the American University's Professional Masters in Strategic Communication program, in addition to working full-time at the White House. It is Leah's passion to make the world of professional communications strategy and public service more accessible to people with disabilities. Ms. Katz-Hernandez received her Bachelor of Arts in Government degree from Gallaudet University in 2010.


Financial - No relevant financial relationship exist.

Nonfinancial - No relevant nonfinancial relationship exist.