Lawyer who is deaf uses NRS to work productively

Wed 29 April 2015

National Relay Service app on a smartphone

Thirty-five year old Kathryn O’Brien has three degrees, is a lawyer, a mother and was born deaf –something that has never stopped her from achieving her goals.

Specialising in family and criminal law in Geebung, Queensland, Kathryn was the first deaf lawyer to work in an Australian Court. She uses her skills and background to work with the Australian Deaf community.

“I’m providing a platform for my clients to be heard, there are certain groups of people who cannot speak for themselves,” she says.  “I’ve been told by Deaf people it is good to talk to a representative in their own language and they now feel empowered to seek legal advice.”

Using interpreters, video streaming sites like Skype and the National Relay Service (NRS) help Kathryn in her daily work life.

The NRS is an initiative of the Australian Government that provides phone solutions to enable people with hearing or speech difficulties to stay connected with businesses, government departments, organisations or family and friends.

“I frequently use the NRS, mostly to liaise with Legal Aid Queensland regarding applications for funds, as I represent Legal Aid funded clients in family law. I make calls to court personnel regarding locations, sitting magistrates and to make sure special needs would be met for myself or for a deaf client of mine,” says Kathryn.

The NRS provides training to businesses across the country to assist callers like Kathryn and her clients with their everyday business. 

The training focuses on how to take NRS calls effectively and includes a live call through a relay officer.

Legal Aid NSW Equity & Diversity Coordinator Joe Wasuruj organised training for their NSW based staff because it is important that they learn about the NRS and experience how a relay call works.

“It’s great to know what to expect when a deaf or a person with a hearing impairment looking for legal representation or advice – it allows us to give them the best help possible.”

NRS calls are confidential, easy to use and are available to users any time in Australia. There is no extra charge for making a relay call. You just pay your regular data or phone costs to make your call through the NRS.

There are many ways to access the NRS to make relay calls – through video relay, captioned relay, SMS relay, Speak and Listen, internet relay or TTY. In each case, there is a relay officer on the line acting as the central link who relays exactly what is said by both parties.

For further information about the NRS, visit www.relayservice.gov.au or phone 1800 555 660.

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