NO ONE NOTICED AMORUSO’S HEARING LOSS
until he was in kindergarten.
“We knew his speech was missing certain
sounds, but you think if you keep giving him
little lessons, it’ll get better,” says Amoruso’s
Then one day, she had a conversation with
one of Amoruso’s classmates. “Does Michael
have a disease?” she remembers the boy
asking. “Because he talks funny.”
Throughout his time in elementary
school, Amoruso faced discrimination as
a result of his hearing loss—not just from
teasing schoolmates but from the school
administration. He was placed in remedial
classes. Teachers told Amoruso’s parents he
would never read beyond a fourth-grade level.
Nevertheless, in seventh grade he asked his
parents if he could take the entrance exam for
Iona Grammar School, a private school in New
Rochelle. Seventy children were taking the
exam for one open spot.
“I walked into the exam room and knew I was
out of my element,” says Amoruso.
As he was taking the exam, though, he
noticed that the proctor, Brother Dillon,
kept walking back and forth, focusing on his
responses to the questions. When the exam
was over, Brother Dillon asked, “If we said you
could come here next week, would you?” A few
days later, his parents received a phone call
from the principal saying they wanted him at
the school, and he could start immediately.
“What [Brother Dillon] noticed was that, though
50 vocabulary words each night.
I was in the seventh grade, I had the vocabulary
of a 6-year-old because I couldn’t hear,” says
Amoruso. “Yet my IQ was way up here.”
At Iona Grammar School, teachers gave
Amoruso extra work to help him catch up to his
peers. He had to read a book a week and learn
“It was a full day of work after school,” says
Amoruso. “I was tired, there were tears coming
down my face, but my mother was there the
whole time getting me through it.”
Brother Dillon also encouraged Amoruso
to join the debate team. Amoruso excelled
at sports, especially baseball and golf, and
worked at the local course in return for green
time during the summer.
“On summer afternoons, I ended up playing
“I looked up at the sunset,” says Amoruso.
with senior citizens,” says Amoruso. “And the joy
I got from hearing their stories. I was learning a
lot about life. I’m sure that has something to do
with how my own life was molded.”
Then more bad news. His parents wanted to
buy him a new pair of glasses during his senior
year at Boston College, and after the eye exam,
the ophthalmologist told him that he had lost
a significant amount of peripheral vision. Later,
when he was diagnosed with a genetic disorder
called Usher syndrome, he learned that this was
linked to his hearing loss, but at the time he
only knew what the doctor told him: By his 40s
or 50s, he would be completely blind. He says
he cried for about five minutes, then went to the
golf course and putted for about three hours.
“I allowed myself to experience the beauty of
the sunset. Perhaps I was convincing myself,
‘Implant this in your brain, because one day you
won’t be able to experience this.’ Whatever it
was, it was a peaceful feeling.”
“He said he communicated with God,” says
Amoruso’s father, Donald, “and said if this is
what it is, it is, but I am not going to let it stop
me. That has been his attitude right to this day.”
After law school, where he met his wife,
Sreelekha, he went job hunting. Firm after firm
turned him down.
“There were so many attorneys who, in the
face of the Americans with Disabilities Act, said
to me, ‘I don’t see how a blind person could
be a lawyer,’ stone-faced, just like that,” says
Amoruso. “I interviewed at every name-brand
law firm in Manhattan, every name-brand firm
in Boston. They would always say, ‘We really
admire your story,’ but no one wanted me.”
“Even when he has every door slammed in
his face, and it would be understandable to
have a pity party, he doesn’t know how. That’s
not how he copes,” says Sreelekha.
Eventually, Holly Benedict, then head of
development at The Lighthouse (now Lighthouse
International), an organization for the vision-impaired, referred Amoruso to a retired judge,
Vincent DeIorio, whose small firm focused on
construction cases. DeIorio did not need another
attorney. But he gave Amoruso a chance.
“Michael was certainly a bright guy,” says
This was good preparation for when, in 2001,
DeIorio. “His disability was no impediment.”
Because the firm was small, Amoruso was
able to learn the business side of things from
DeIorio: how to get clients and manage staff.
shortly after the birth of his first child, Amoruso
decided to open his own practice.
DeIorio rented space to Amoruso in his office,
and the Amorusos built their business through
networking at bar association functions. Now,
jobs after law
told, “‘I don’t
see how a blind
be a lawyer,’
just like that.”