“Blindness in history and law”

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Ronald McCallum, a lawyer and professor at the University of Sydney, recently wrote a paper in the Australian Bar Review chronicling a variety of famous people who are blind.

The paper’s history section examines a political leader, a citizen activist and a few academics, among others, with a detailed look at the brilliant Louis Braille, who invented the first writing system for blind people at just age 15.

He then describes a number of blind lawyers such as Sir John Field, a judge from the 1700s who was said to “recognize the voice of as many as 3,000 London criminals.”

McCallum, who reflects on his previous reluctance to publically describe his blindness to avoid distractions from his career as a labor lawyer, believes blindness, more than most other disabilities, is particularly adaptable to the challenges of practicing law.

“Like no other profession, the essence of lawyering is a way of thinking backed up by legal knowledge,” he said. “In other words, a lawyer’s work is mainly ‘all in the brain work’ consisting of analysis, diagnosis and classification where memory of legal material is a pivotal part of the process. This is perhaps why many of us with sensory or motor disabilities have turned to the law as a road to advancement.”

The views in this article do not represent the views of DisAbility Rights Galaxy. Papers highlighted in DisAbility Rights Galaxy’s Law Review section were picked for their ability to be thought provoking and promote further discussion of disability rights issues.