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Disability Matters Disability: An interview with Martin Whitehorn

Property solicitor and ULaw alumnus Martin Whitehorn recently took part in our Diversity Matters Disability event where he discussed disabled accessibility within law. We caught up with Martin to discuss his experience of being a neurodiverse solicitor.

I wanted to participate in the ULaw Disability Matters event to reassure disabled students that they are not alone when it comes to trying to progress in the legal profession. I also wanted to highlight the work that The Law Society is doing to improve disability inclusion in the profession so that they can be more confident in bringing their full selves into the workplace.

We live in an age where technology allows people to work to the best of their ability so there is no excuse in my mind to exclude others. It’s hard enough to enter the law and other professions without a lack of knowledge on disability inclusion getting in the way. Increased disability representation will help the best people to enter and progress through the legal profession, enhancing the sector and benefiting clients.

The publishing of the first ‘Legally Disabled?’ report emboldened me to speak out more on disability representation because I finally had evidence to support what I have heard anecdotally from disabled aspiring and junior lawyers, that so often they are overlooked and not considered in an employer’s inclusion work. By being more outspoken and attending Law Society roundtables on the report, I was consequently invited to speak at tmgroup’s ‘Building An Inclusive Property Industry’ webinar, contributed to the Law Society’s recent guides on ‘Reasonable adjustments in organisations – best practice for disability inclusion’ and ‘Easy wins and action points for disability inclusion’. Thanks to The University of Law I have also had the opportunity to express my views on its blog and in The Guardian.

I’m currently a property solicitor at Julie West Solicitors, helping people transfer property ownership, namely moving home, along with improving the value of their properties. They have initiatives to support disabled employees, for example, a day was devoted to teaching me and my colleagues more about autistic spectrum disorder and possible reasonable adjustments. I’d say we are still learning as we go but looking to make improvements wherever we can. One initiative my employer is pursuing, following recent Law Society guidance, is to use more positive language in encouraging disabled people to apply for jobs and work experience rather than simply saying we are an equal opportunities employer.

If students want to support disability representation, don’t use the accessible toilet. By which I mean, don’t consider reasonable adjustments to be ‘special’ treatment, but necessary for that person to live their life and do their job to the best of their ability. I don’t use an accessible toilet because I don’t need it, but some disabled people do.

To learn more, I would recommend the ‘Legally Disabled?’ research reports which provide such an accurate account of what it is like to be disabled - particularly physically disabled - in the legal profession.

Employers wishing to improve accessibility can refer to the Law Society’s guides on ‘Reasonable adjustments in organisations – best practice for disability inclusion’ which has examples of reasonable adjustments that organisations, both large and small, are currently providing their disabled employees, along with ‘Easy wins and action points for disability inclusion’.

 

Discover more about our series of Diversity Matters events.