A Supreme Court justice said 4 words in American Sign Language. Here's why that's awesome.

On Tuesday, April 19, U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts said, "Your motion is granted" in court. Sound typical? It's not.

Because for the first time in U.S. history, these words were spoken from the Supreme Court bench in American Sign Language.

To most people, that probably doesn't sound like a big deal. After all, it's just one little phrase, right? And it's not like he said something cool like "Awkward turtle" or "My hovercraft is full of eels" either.


He just said a thing that judges normally say in court.

Chief Justice Roberts. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

But for the millions of Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing — including the 12 lawyers who were being sworn into the Supreme Court bar that day — it means a lot.

It wasn't until 1982 that a deaf lawyer was given an opportunity to argue in front of the Supreme Court. More than three decades later, there are around 200 deaf lawyers working in America. By contrast, licensed lawyers make up about 0.4% of the total U.S. population.

“Some deaf or hard-of-hearing lawyers doubt that they can actually practice law," Howard Rosenblum, one of the lawyers who was sworn in that day, told the Washington Post. “But the real practice is based on intellect and deaf people have that in spades.”

“I think the biggest challenge has been to get people to give me the opportunity,” added Teresa Curtin, another deaf lawyer sworn in Chief Justice Roberts.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

And that illuminates a real problem in our culture: The assumption that people with physical disabilities are somehow less qualified to use their minds.

There's another issue, too, with the way we tend to dismiss those who struggle to communicate in standard American English. But whereas we're willing to learn bits and phrases of other languages to help us move through the world — who doesn't know how to say "hello" or "where's the bathroom?" in at least one other language? — we're much less accommodating of communication barriers like deafness.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

It's easy to assume that all deaf people have a supernatural ability to read lips, for example. But lipreading is a pretty ineffective form of communication. Even if you think you're doing a good thing by speaking slowly and oh-ver-ee-nun-see-ate-ing eh-vuh-ree sill-uh-bull, most lip-readers can still only understand about 30% of what's being said.

American Sign Language, on the other hand, is actually an incredibly efficient way to connect with people. It's clear, it's concise, and there are less complicated verb conjugations to worry about. You don't have to worry about talking over someone in order to be heard. You can communicate with anyone in a crowd as long as they're in eyesight, and that's pretty cool!

Photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images.

Deaf people, like anyone else, are capable of amazing things. But if we're going to make them find their way in the hearing world, the least we can do is talk to them on their terms.

By speaking those four simple words in ASL, Chief Justice Roberts demonstrated a willingness to embrace the Deaf community and meet them where they are. Instead of sitting back and watching as they climbed across the hearing barriers, that one simple signing action communicated something much more than words. It said, "I see you, and I acknowledge that you matter just as much as anyone else."

Some cats have it all. Seriously.

For some cat owners, their furry friends are equal to (or in some cases, greater than) humans, and they have the digs to prove it.

Take, for instance, the adorable little bedroom Twitter user @CinnamonBear9 shared with the world this week. Kitty has a bed, complete with bedspread that matches mom's and dad's. He has pictures on the walls, a rug, a miniature chair, some tiny yarn balls, and a mini scratching post. And the pièce de résistance? A wooden wall frame that holds a tablet so the cat can watch bird videos on YouTube.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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