Mitchell Hamline alum Jessica Kennedy ’10 was recently named president of a new health division at the world’s largest Deaf-led social impact organization, Communication Service for the Deaf.
As head of CSD Health, Kennedy will oversee all health care initiatives that are aimed at ensuring equitable healthcare access for deaf, deaf-blind, deaf-disabled, hard-of-hearing, and late-deafened people whose daily lives are impacted by barriers to accessible communications options within the healthcare system.
“Studies have shown that even a majority of physicians realize they are not complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act because they don’t have accommodations, or those they have are inadequate,” said Kennedy, who is deaf. “It’s important to address these matters because patients aren’t just frustrated by these experiences. We know they also suffer disparate consequences as a result.”
Kennedy, 40, was born in the Twin Cities to a hearing mom and deaf dad. She was born hard of hearing and is now deaf. She has long worked in health-related fields as a disability rights advocate, including as deputy general counsel and policy director – and later as a board member – of MNsure, Minnesota’s health insurance exchange. She was also an in-house attorney at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, advising on healthcare and privacy issues.
She serves on the board of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association and was a Deaf yoga instructor.
“One of the fundamental rights belonging to every human being is access to medical care,” added Kennedy. “Yet, Deaf communities are often not afforded this dignity, even within the United States. Changes must be made, and this organization is prioritizing the healthcare space as a top issue for advocacy and change.”
Kennedy adds her time in law school helped shape the work she does. “Mitchell Hamline breeds attorneys who are undeterred by deep-rooted, complicated problems,” she said. “It also fosters a collaborative and supportive culture where we uplift and cheer colleagues who are undertaking serious challenges.
“It’s a community rather than a competition.”