Keith Nolan

Will The Deaf Ever Be Able To Enlist?

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Throughout history, the Military has always been changing. For example, women couldn’t enlist until 1948 when Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act. Over the past five years, more and more people have started to wonder if the deaf will ever be able to enlist. The Isreali Military allows the deaf to serve in non-combat roles. Contrary, here in the US, deaf people are not allowed in the Military. However, Keith Nolan is doing all he can to change this.

Who is Keith Nolan?

Keith Nolan is a teacher at the Maryland School for the Deaf, who wants to be in the Military more than anything. Unfortunately, because Nolan is deaf, he does not pass the medical exam required for Military Members. He explains in his TED Talk, “Deaf in the Military,” that he’s dreamed of enlisting ever since he was a child. When he turned 18, he tried to enlist at various locations, but each one turned him away as soon as they discovered his disability. Despite this, Nolan doesn’t give up on his dream. Although he is a teacher, he also started to take classes in a ROTC program. This changed everything for him as he realized that he was physically capable of being a soldier. Unfortunately, he only made it to the third level, when the physical hearing test held him back.


Deaf Soldiers In Military History

Nolan explains in his TED Talk that the United States Military has had deaf soldiers serve before. He says that a deaf soldier, known as “Deaf Smith,” played an integral role in the Texas War of Independence. Additionally, deaf soldiers have served on both sides of the Civil War, as well as serving in WWII. Nolan explains that it wasn’t until recently that the Military has disqualified the deaf from serving.


Jobs For The Deaf In The Military

Although there are currently no jobs available for the deaf in the military, Nolan argues that they should be allowed to serve in non-combat roles. 80% of the jobs in the Military are non-combat and Nolan argues that the deaf should be allowed to serve in medical fields, cyber security, intelligence, or similar roles. Nolan explains that in the Isreali Military, interpreters aren’t even needed a majority of the time. However, in the Military, all service members must be able to deploy at any given time, even if they’re non-combat. This is the biggest obstacle that the deaf face.


The Maryland School For The Deaf’s Cadet Program

While the deaf aren’t able to enlist in the Military, Nolan started his own cadet program for deaf students. According to the ECN article, “Should A Bill Be Passed To Allow The Deaf In The Military? This Teacher Thinks So,” by Janine E. Mooney, “The program teaches students about the military and includes rank structure and soldier skills, focusing on leadership, teamwork, and communication”. Nolan says that his primary focus now is passing a bill that allows the deaf in the Military.


The deaf want to serve this country, so Nolan is doing all he can to make that dream possible.