By George McLaughlin
International Day of Persons with Disabilities took place on 3 December and it’s goal is to promote the rights and well-being of people with disabilities. In light of this, I thought it might be helpful to give some ‘top tips’, based on my experiences so far, having been fully qualified for just over a year, as a blind solicitor. As will become apparent, most of these tips may be equally applicable to any young solicitor getting used to the workplace setting . However, I will explain how I think these can be best applied specifically with reference to disability. I hope this is of some assistance to those with disabilities aspiring to a career in law.
1. Collaborate and communicate as much as possible.
Employment can be hard enough for both employers and employees at times in a normal situation but add in a disability, along with the fast pace environment required for legal work, and it is easy to see the potential for difficulties to arise. I would suggest that the way to deal with this is to be as open and honest as possible. As a person with a disability, that sometimes means being prepared to have difficult conversations (something which is not as easy as you would think). From an employer’s perspective, getting used to the technicalities of putting any reasonable adjustments in place or thinking about any adjustments which might be implemented through government schemes such as Access to Work is as equally important.
Just as with employees without a disability, it is important to remember that wider support networks have a role to play. I have often relied on my family or other colleagues as sources of advice and/or assistance when faced with issues. Again, there is an onus on someone with a disability to communicate if they are encountering issues – something which is not always easy in front of colleagues, or which might be even more difficult in the case of hidden disabilities.
2. Be prepared to ask for help.
This is one thing which I am getting more and more used to doing with time. However, I still find it hard, mainly as I have been taught to be independent and self-sufficient. Sometimes I feel somewhat less independent when I ask for help from others. However, in doing so there are other gains in terms of productivity, efficiency, and the fact that sometimes, other people might simply actually be better at carrying out the specific task in question.
3. Aim for Efficiency
I suspect this tip is also applicable to all young solicitors. However, I think the need to find efficient ways of doing things is even greater for someone with a disability. My way of trying to achieve this is by using keyboard shortcuts to navigate my computer, as I do not use a mouse. The key point here is not simply to use the shortcuts themselves, but to learn as many as possible to navigate through the system as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
In conclusion, whilst it’s important to note that different tips may be applicable in the context of different disabilities, I have found that out of the many small hints and tips which have assisted me so far, collaboration and communication, being prepared to ask for help and aiming for efficiency are the three which have served me best in my short period working in the legal profession.