I (Donna Jodhan) first met Andrew Johnson in the early 1990s when I asked him to become my personal lawyer, and over the years he has become more than just my personal lawyer.
Today, Andrew is my mentor and sounding board!
I recently asked him to share his perspectives on the role of Blind and vision impaired persons being a part of the legal profession in Trinidad and I am delighted that he agreed.
The following are his thoughts.
I thank Andrew for his generous contribution.
Donna J. Jodhan, President
Barrier Free Canada
Andrew Johnson’s Perspectives
In the late 60’s, I accessed course material by way of a correspondence course with the College of Law in Guildford, Surrey. I purchased textbooks from Butterworths in London and other suppliers. This was a very ancient process when compared with the existence of a local faculty of law, law school lectures, tutorials, moots & technological tools. My professional exams were set by the UK Law Society and invigilated locally by the Registrar of the High Court.
As far as I am aware, there were no blind students among our ranks. Visually impaired, yes, including me with my short sightedness and several other articled clerks wearing spectacles. Unlike today, the number of articled clerks were between 15 to 20 for the very most.
I did know that Braille was the language of the visually impaired but never experienced its use up to today. I was not aware of the existence of any legal texts in Braille.
I did not know of any blind persons outside of my studies. However, Ewart Thorne, Q.C. practiced as a barrister at law and was visually impaired to the extent of having lost vision in one eye and was also hearing impaired. He was a brilliant lawyer with an excellent command of the English language.
Was it possible for a blind or vision impaired person to become a lawyer?
I did think that a visually impaired lawyer person could become a lawyer, but not someone who was totally blind. How could such a person read unless the material was in Braille, see the facial expressions of witnesses, the judge, colleagues, exhibits in court and photographs, etc.
An Example of a Successful Lawyer
In my career, I have met Terrence Thorne, deceased who was blind. I did not have very much interaction with him but witnessed how he functioned in court. I believe that his success depended on the understanding of all in court, his colleagues, co-workers and support staff.
Main challenges for Blind and Vision Impaired Persons Entering the Legal Profession
If blind or visually impaired persons were to enter the legal profession, the main challenges would be:
The scarcity of Braille publications, teaching aids, tax & fiscal incentives, limited public access to public buildings, public education, cultural gaps and the lack of technological tools.
Attitudinal barriers. Some of the attitude barriers are educational, discriminatory, the job market, and equality of treatment.
Some possible physical issues would be accessibility to buildings, transport, consumer friendly devices, housing, etc.
Educational barriers would be the shortage of Braille aids, examination facilities, accessibility to trade schools and grants.
Less Challenging for Blind and Vision Impaired Persons
A particular section of the legal system that could be less challenging for a blind or visually impaired person would be an in house practice, non advocacy role, a corporate commercial practice, conveyancing, probate, intellectual property, alternative dispute resolution, the public service, and the teaching of differently abled persons.
Photo Alt: Image. Close-up of a bronze Statue of Justice which focuses on a bright light in the center of the photo which shines directly upon the blindfold worn by Lady Justice.