Hi, my name is Sinead. I am 29 years old. I have aniridia, nystagmus, coloboma, and glaucoma. I am registered blind as I have only have 5% vision. I live in the Republic of Ireland and am the country’s first visually impaired solicitor.
I recently finished a six month placement with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. I am now searching to fulfil my short term goal: to get a job working in a private solicitor’s office. My medium term goal is to specialise in the area of equality/disability law and in the long term to own my own law practice.
My disability meant that my childhood could be summed up as: a fight against adversity. Why? Because I was constantly fighting the system to get appropriate support.
I was also bullied, physically and emotionally due to my disability. Growing up, I was always made to feel as if I would never achieve, just because I had these eye conditions. Hence I had a very negative mindset of myself.
However, that all changed when I was 17 years old. My careers advisor advised me not to do law: it was a reading based subject and thus I wouldn’t be able to cope. From that day, inside me, I started a silent rebellion. I was going to prove her wrong and I was going to start standing up for myself. I told myself having a disability isn’t something to be ashamed about. In fact it is something which makes me unique. I started to embrace my disability as something positive and when people would try and bully me I started to stand up to them.
I did prove my careers advisor wrong. I went onto college and achieved a degree and masters in law. In March 2009 I qualified as Ireland’s first visually impaired solicitor.
The doctors tell me I should be using a white cane or a guide dog. Sometimes I use a white symbol stick sometimes I don’t. Why? Because I have a positive attitude and I have developed creative ways to get around without needing it all the time. People say “but that is mad, you’re blind – you should be using your cane.”
But what is blind? Everybody is blind in some way. Does that mean they should have white canes? People don’t want to see beyond the barriers. I believe that people can achieve anything by looking on life with vision of the heart. For example, look at Mother Teresa – such a small woman in height and yet she made such a powerful, huge difference in society. I believe that we can all make a positive difference in society. Yet, the problem is people are limiting themselves with their own personal short-sightedness – all they see is the barriers, the hurdles and the bad news. They don’t see the positive – the support network around them – the team, the gift of just being alive.
Outside of law I have a passion for motivating people and making a difference in people’s lives. Hence, I set up my own website called: The Kane Ability: ‘Believe in yourself. Anything is possible’. I am driven to help people. I want to inspire and help others. When I do motivational talks it gives me a feel-good factor as I am able to express myself and make a difference in people’s lives.
For me, having tasted both sides of the spectrum: both a negative and positive mindset I realise that I have a unique gift. However, I also realise I couldn’t have such a positive attitude towards life if it wasn’t for the positivity and good will shown to me by my family and friends.
All of us are affected, in one way or another by the people we meet. This happens instinctively and on a subconscious level, through thoughts and feelings. We can all be inspirations.