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Perseverance in Profile


GARY NORMAN: SEEING AND SEIZING THE OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE BY TOM CALARCO


Gary Norman was born with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disorder that gradually diminished his vision. Today, he is almost totally blind. But visual impairment hasn’t stopped the Maryland-based attorney from becoming a champion for disability rights. In fact, the self- effacing man credits some of his success to his disability.


T ese abilities and his parents encouragement helped 10 “B DIVERSITY & THE BAR® MAY/JUNE 2011


Norman navigate the learning problems and career chal- lenges he faced in his youth. He began using a cane in the seventh grade and by tenth grade could barely read large print. When he entered Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, he could no longer see large print and transitioned to using books on tape. “Wright State had the best setting for disabled student


services in Ohio,” Norman says. “I thought I would acquire a history Ph.D., but I wanted to make an impact on society and thought law would be a better way to do this.” While enrolled at Cleveland-Marshall Law School,


“Being disabled gives me insights and experiences I might not otherwise have,” says the Brunswick, Ohio, native. “My mom was a housewife and


part-time worker, and my dad [was] a Marine and Korean War vet, who rose to an executive-level position with the railroad in Cleveland, Ohio,” he says. “My mom was involved in the PTA and my dad in the city council. I think I acquired her social skills and my dad’s organizational skills.”


Norman spent two summers clerking for civil rights attor- ney David Roth, an advocate for the poor and the founder of Cleveland Works, a now defunct nonprofi t organization that provided job training, social services, and legal aid to the unemployed. Clerking there left a great impression on Norman and helped shape his view of the role lawyers should play in society. “Attorneys should be lawyer- statesmen, be involved, and make the world better,” he says. After passing the Ohio Bar in November of 2000,


Norman received a two-year presidential management fel- lowship at the Department of Health and Human Services in Baltimore, Md., where he now works as a staff attorney for Medicare and Medicaid services. After law school, Norman’s sight deteriorated to the point


that he needed a guide dog. T e yellow Lab was named Langer. “He was by my side when I got married, and when my


mom passed away,” Norman says with aff ection. T ough Langer has since retired, the canine is still part of the


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