Jackie speaks with author Andrew Solomon, whose Far from the Tree (2012) documents the family dynamics around a myriad of diverse conditions. Her story appears in the second chapter of the book.
To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, New York City named July as Disability Pride Month in 2015.
A lifelong advocate for the Deaf community, Corcoran agent Jackie Roth worked tirelessly towards the ADA’s passage. We spoke with Jackie about her journey, her ardent support for people with disabilities, and the civil rights causes she continues to fight for today.
Like many native New Yorkers, Corcoran agent Jackie Roth talks with her hands, especially when emphasizing a point. But unlike most, her gestures are her first language: American Sign Language (ASL). A third-generation member of the Deaf community, Jackie radiates a spirit of charmingly fierce advocacy. Her signing is quick and clear, and even for someone without any knowledge of ASL, her hands make visible the words that are hard to hear over a restaurant’s din.
Growing up, Jackie was the first person in her family to be taught verbal speech and lip-reading and these skills, combined with her hearing aids, allows her to navigate daily life smoothly. “I see myself as a bridge,” she says. “I was the only person in my family who could speak, and I was that bridge between my family and the hearing world.”
For Jackie, that empathy has become a guiding force in her professional life, no matter who she’s working with. She brings to real estate a lifetime of activism, always championing inclusion in an astoundingly practical manner. “The percentage of people in the Deaf community who own their homes is very low, especially in New York City,” she says. “My parents never dreamed that they could own. If my father could see me today, working as a real estate agent, he would be over the moon.”
Jackie has been a real estate agent since 2005, a path she was inspired to pursue partially by her own experiences. “When I bought my first apartment in New York, I ended up losing money because I didn’t have complete information. I never want that to happen to any of my clients.” She explains how her deafness has ended up working to her advantage: “Because of my need for my hearing aids and lip-reading, I literally can’t hear anything that is said behind my back,” she says. “As a result, I’ve learned to never be afraid to ask questions.”
As an actor, Jackie has performed on and off Broadway, in commercials, and was a producer of the 2000 Academy Award-nominated documentary Sound and Fury. During the early days of the pandemic, Jackie had a chance to return to her entertainment roots, acting in Deaf Broadway’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company, playing Joanne with her show-stopper number of “Ladies Who Lunch.” Jackie also signed up as a first responder with the American Red Cross after witnessing 9/11 three blocks away from her Lower Manhattan home. Between her experience as an actor and a lifetime of observing people as a Deaf person, Jackie can read a room immediately. “When a someone finds their perfect apartment, I can see it on their face right away,” she explains.
When asked about how agents can be more helpful for clients with disabilities, Jackie emphasizes attitude and transparency. “You cannot assume what a client needs—every client is different,” she explains. “A bad attitude is the worst disability of all.”
Photo of Jackie Roth in rehearsal for a Broadway SIGNs! performance. Photo by Dickie Hearts.