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Diversity Matters: Disability

Our final event for 2021 in our current Diversity Matters series, focused on disability in the workplace celebrating International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The event brought together legal professionals and ULaw employees to share their wealth of experience and highlight what can be done to improve disabled access in the legal sector.

ULaw Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Patrick Johnson introduced and hosted the event. After welcoming digital attendees from across the globe, he went on to introduce the speakers.

The first speaker was ULaw alumna, Property Solicitor at Julie West Solicitors and Chair of Surrey Junior Lawyers Division Martin Whitehorn. Martin shared his experiences working in law with autism and discussed the support available from The Law Society and its affiliated Junior Lawyers Division Group.

“Although the pandemic has been a severe disruption to my life, one thing I feel that has benefitted me is virtual meetings and talks like these. It’s been a chance to actually hear what people are saying, rather than be in a room to socialise more effectively with others and has helped put me in the mood to organise events to contribute to Law Society initiatives.”

Patrick then introduced the second speaker, current ULaw student and Disabled Students’ Liberation Officer Grace McCrudden. Grace reflected on her experiences of becoming disabled, what she has learnt since, and why she is dedicated to making positive changes in society.

“As a self-identifying disabled person for a while now, I started to get angry at a lot of inaccessibility I was seeing. So, I knew I had to do something to change it. Because of this, I ran for the position of Disabled Students’ Liberation Officer here at The University of Law, and I was fortunate enough to be elected. Now I’m on a mission to improve accessibility at ULaw. It’s a long road, but one I’m excited to travel down.”

The third speaker of the evening was Deputy Head of Legal Services for the NHS, Scarlett Bruce. Scarlett was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of fifteen, and has navigated studying, qualifying, and working in law whilst managing a long-term health condition.

“Now, I’m really proud to be open, upfront and transparent about having epilepsy because I think it’s important to advocate for the disabled community and seek to make positive changes. I understand that having an invisible illness is a different challenge in itself. The phrase often used is – you don’t look sick. I’ve come out of many disabled toilets to be asked – what a, I doing in there? I’ve been told I don’t belong in there. But it’s important to remember the everyday challenges you face internally that you overcome. Sometimes you just have to give yourself a pat on the back.”

The next speaker was Jane Del-Pizzo, an Acquisitions and Cataloguing Librarian at ULaw. Jane touched on battling fatigue in the workplace and shared some of her methods and strategies that she has found helpful.

“When I go into meetings, the ones that make me feel most relaxed are the ones with clear targets at the end of it. If you’re in a management position and you’re able to set those SMART targets during a meeting, that just helps to remove any confusion. Confusion and stress contribute to fatigue, so that can help to lessen the load.”

The final speaker of the evening was ULaw alumna and casework officer at the Office of the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, Haleemah Sadia. Haleemah’s spoke about being a visually impaired aspiring barrister, her career at the Police and Commissioners office and her campaigning for accessibility in Parliament.

“I campaigned for accessibility when I worked in Parliament. I’ll tell you how that came about. The Parliamentary estate is a very old estate. I don’t know if people have had the opportunity to go and visit, but think of the oldest building you can, and on top of it, it’s a listed building, so there are not many things you can do. However, I raised my point to my office manager that these massive staircases I have to take to get from the reception to our office are slightly dangerous, very huge and the bannister didn’t go all the way down either…My manager raised this with David (Right Honourable David Lammy), and David ended up writing to the estates team. When I went again, all the steps had been painted with yellow paint.”

Following the individual talks, speakers took questions from the event attendees, including queries on how best to ask for support with invisible disabilities and how individuals can support people with visual impairments.

Post event, speakers and event attendees were able to network and continue discussions in digital expo booths.

Thank you to everyone who has participated in this series of events. We’ve been delighted at their success and truly inspired by some incredible speakers.

 

If you’re a student who would like to discuss the extra support we can provide you during your studies, visit our Student Support Services.