Talila A. Lewis is an attorney-activist whose advocacy and research primarily focus on creating equal access to the justice system for individuals who are deaf and for people with disabilities. Talila has worked for nearly a decade to correct and prevent deaf wrongful convictions that often stem from cross-cultural miscommunication between deaf and hearing individuals; and is one of the only people known to have worked on multiple deaf wrongful conviction cases.
Talila founded and directs the all-volunteer nonprofit organization, Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf (HEARD), which works to end deaf wrongful convictions and abuse of and discrimination against incarcerated people with disabilities; and to increase representation of the deaf in the justice, legal and corrections professions.
Talila leads innovative campaigns that shine an international spotlight on injustices that persist for deaf and disabled people within the justice system. For example, in addition to serving a key role in the creation of Al Jazeera America's "Deaf In Prison," documentary, Talila organized the #DeafInPrison Campaign, which, in two days, amassed more than 26,000 online views. Talila also developed and currently leads the American Civil Liberties Union's "Know Your Deaf Rights Campaign" which works to curtail police brutality against deaf people; and the Deaf Prisoner Phone Justice Campaign which lobbies the Federal Communications Commission and the United States Department of Justice to take action to ensure that hundreds of thousands of deaf and disabled prisoners gain equal access to telecommunications.
Talila is a visiting professor at Rochester Institute of Technology/National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and a recent graduate from American University Washington College of Law. In addition to being named one of Pacific Standard's 2015 Top 30 Thinkers Under 30, Talila has received awards from numerous universities, the American Bar Association, the American Association for People with Disabilities, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, the Nation Institute, and EBONY magazine, among others.