November 29, 2016

Disability: Lawyering to Beat the Odds

Charlie Brown

About a decade ago, my wife Jacki and I attended a pleasant reception and dinner. Most of the folks there were lawyers and spouses. I knew few people there. Jacki and I sat down at a table where the others all seemed to know each other. So, I introduced myself and Jacki. To our amazement one of the men said that he was pleased that I brought my wife, because "she does your legal work for you." He had figured out that I was blind and politely insulted me. I tried to let it go, with a simple statement to the contrary, but Jacki was furious. After giving him a brief account of my accomplishments, Jacki asked the gentleman what had prompted him to utter such a dumb remark. His response was that there was once a blind lawyer in his town, whose wife did his legal work for him. A couple of other folks at the table helped change the subject --for which I was grateful, since I intended to enjoy the evening.

That comment echoed a similar one years earlier. Then I had asked a colleague why it had taken so long for her organization to make me a job offer. She said that they had once hired a disabled lawyer, but "it didn’t work out." Ignorance is not always bliss.

Yes, I am a blind lawyer. Like most blind people, I have some remaining vision, but so little that glasses don’t help. I am, of course, pleased to use my remaining vision when it helps, and to use alternate techniques when my limited vision is not helpful. My lack of eyesight is not at all painful. Since I’ve been blind all my life, I am used to it. As one of my blind friends puts it, "I am a blind man, not a broken sighted man."

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