Dave changed his attitude, which changed my life. This is how it happened.
I roared out of the garage of Sydney University, and the College of Law, a shiny new lawyer. My social justice engine, fuelled by its knowledge of unfair dismissals and unconscionable contracts, was ready to drive people from the back roads of disadvantage onto the freeway of life.
Then reality kicked in. I spun my wheels for twelve months while I went to thirty job interviews. I didn’t get any of those jobs, mostly because employers could not comprehend how a blind person could work as a lawyer.
So that shiny new baby lawyer took a job as a Clerical Assistant, the first step in the NSW Public Service. I used to joke that I was the only clerical assistant in the NSW public service with a law degree.
My first job was answering the telephone, and telling people the winning lotto numbers. I was made redundant from that role by an answering machine.
After a short stint at the Land Titles office, I found a job in the Department of Consumer Affairs. Again I was answering the telephone, but at least I was providing advice to consumers. But I was still the only clerk with a law degree.
Then I met Dave. He was the Senior Legal Officer at the Department. We used to chat at the coffee machine, and at drinks in the pub across the road on a Friday night. I kept talking to him about how I wanted to be a lawyer, and how I would do the job if I could get it. He wasn’t absolutely convinced, but agreed to give me a try. Dave’s change of attitude changed my life.
I worked as a Clerk in Legal, and then as a Legal Officer. I contributed to the department’s work on bicycle helmet regulations, and the National Uniform Credit Code. I was there in a time of reform, when Sid Einfeld was the Minister for Consumer Affairs. I was living the dream.
Then the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act was amended to include disability as a ground of discrimination, and the President of the ADB, Carmel Niland, wanted someone with lived experience of disability, and some knowledge of the sector, as a conciliator. I had made it.
I made it because I was determined, and because Dave changed his attitude. He was definitely not convinced that a blind person could operate as a lawyer, but he decided to give it a tryPeople with disabilities in Australia are limited by the soft bigotry of low expectations. We don’t get appointed to jobs that we know we can do, because others think that we can’t. We are not offered the careers that we want, we are told what more limited careers we can have. We don’t do things because people assume – usually incorrectly – that we can’t.
I, and the Board of the Attitude Foundation in Australia, want to change those attitudes, because we know that changing attitudes changes lives. We will use film, television, media and the internet to change those attitudes.
You can work with us, and others like you, to change attitudes.
You can write the story of how attitudes changed, and be a guest blogger.
You can become a supporter, and recruit others to our cause.
You can contribute to Attitude Foundation Australia.
Go to http://www.attitude.org.au now, and let’s start changing lives today.