IWD21: Time to change the perspective of capability

In the lead up to the International Women’s Day 2021 event, I sat down with our four inspirational panellists to discuss what this year’s theme “Choose to Challenge” really means to them.

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Ashleigh DoRozario experienced life as a person without a disability for 24 years. In 2011 she joined the world’s largest minority when she became legally blind.

Ashleigh suffers a rare autoimmune condition that attacks the central nervous system and in particular, the myelin sheaths that insulate and protect the optic nerves. Despite not completely fitting the diagnostic criteria, she has been diagnosed with ‘neuromyelitis optica’ (aka Devic’s Disease).

Having tried and failed many medications and treatments, she was placed on an experimental treatment that has succeeded in halting the progression of her condition.

Ashleigh is also a well-respected litigation lawyer at Potts Lawyers with a focus on insurance and compensation law. Throughout her career, she’s gained significant experience in complex matters arising from general public liability incidents, motor vehicle and workplace accidents as well as coronial inquest matters involving alleged medical negligence.

Last year, Ashleigh also became a founding member of the QLS Diverse Abilities Network, championing equal opportunity and inclusion for people with disability within the legal profession and wider community.

When asked what she wants to choose to challenge this International Women’s Day, her answer was simple:

Stereotypes.

“I think when you have a disability, there is still very much a social stigma attached to it. One of my biggest challenges has been the instant dismissal of my capabilities because I have a disability,” she said.

“But my visual impairment and autoimmune condition certainly does not impair my capacity to practice law. In fact, I think in some ways it helps me bring a different perspective to the advice I give my clients.”

For Ashleigh, International Women’s Day is crucial in celebrating and supporting women who stand at the forefront, making waves and championing change for others.

She says, part of that change is the need for creating visibility for disability within the legal profession.

“I think – particularly in the legal profession – a lawyer with a disability is not as understood as well as a Paralympian for instance,” she said.

“Traditionally in the legal profession, people in prominent roles have been older men. It’s so good to see that is now slowly changing. Gender equality is rightfully a huge focus with more than 50% of Queensland lawyers being female – but those gains are not necessarily reflected in career projection and pay.” 

“International Women’s Day is about celebrating the women that are already there in those critical leadership positions, leading the way in creating change for everyone… and if women can stand up and be brave, so can those with a diverse ability.’

Join Ashleigh DoRozario along with Sandra Creamer, Zinta Harris and Dr Dinesh Palipana OAM, at our special International Women’s Day 2021 event, in partnership with the Bar Association Queensland and Women’s Lawyers Association of Queensland. Our panellists will lead open and raw conversations about their own personal and professional challenges they’ve faced and overcome. This event is now sold out, but you can purchase the recording of the evening here

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