Deaf Wrestler Wins Settlement Against MHSAA

When you work in communications, there are few professional joys greater than a positive outcome for a client.

In a story we first brought to light on December 3, high school senior Ellis Kempf was asking for a simple accommodation in the wrestling circle - the ability to have a sign language interpreter ringside as he competed in MHSAA sanctioned matches. Initially, that request was denied. So he chose to avail himself of the justice system.

That lawsuit was officially settled today - merely 11 days after its initial filing. Ellis' story is compelling - and media outlets across the country quickly picked up on his struggle and made a difference by raising awareness of the challenge that potentially was on the horizon. While coverage of his story began in Michigan, it quickly spread to media outlets across the United States and beyond.

As a result of this lawsuit, filed by the Nyman Turkish law firm of Southfield, Michigan, MHSAA has rewritten its rules about interpreters for deaf or hard of hearing wrestlers, allowing them full 360 access around the mat at all matches, provided they don’t interfere with wrestlers, coaches, referees or scoring officials. MHSAA also will ensure that student athletes in the future are aware of this rule change.

In short, the suit didn't benefit just Ellis. It will have repercussions for every deaf wrestler to come after him in Michigan - and is precedent-setting for students with the same circumstances across our nation.

It is our fervent wish that citizens in the future don't have to sue organizations to access basic common sense. But if they do, we'll be there again to help.

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