Skip to main content
How to advocate for your needs

October 2023: Katie Morgan is a trainee in our London office. She explains her approach to making sure she is fully participating at work, and how others can support people with a disability at work.

"When people meet me, it is not obvious that I am deaf, and people frequently don't realise that I have a hearing condition. It is not something that I feel embarrassed by or hindered by. It is simply part of who I am. Therefore, it's very important to me to normalise it. Here are my top-tips for anyone with a disability who is starting their career."

Know your strengths and your worth
I believe that I have developed a number of strengths as a result of my disability. For example, being deaf has made me a very attentive listener; I am used to asking questions to clarify my understanding and I am adept at reading non-verbal cues.

Having worked harder than my peers to keep up throughout my life due to my deafness, I felt familiar with the focus and perseverance that corporate law demands. Everyone here is equally assessed on their performance and decisions are made on merit.

Identify the support you need
Throughout my education, I amassed several strategies that supported my studies. Therefore, when entering my graduate role, I was able to utilise these. Perhaps this is having a short introduction prepared for meeting colleagues and explaining your condition—should you feel you need to—so that you can articulate this clearly without feeling nervous.

Other techniques I adopted included ensuring that during the induction sessions I was seated at the front, as there were seating plans; asking that any videos had subtitles; and requesting different headphones. These solutions are relatively simple but made my experience much easier. Be confident in advocating for the extra support that you need.

Know who to approach for support
Knowing who to reach out to for assistance is very important. Initially this was not clear to me, and I now understand that there is not one individual point of call. As a trainee, my first recourse is the Graduate Development team, who are very approachable and receptive. Also, the Firm is establishing a Disability Support Network which will be valuable in providing support and creating an environment where colleagues can discuss their experiences. I hope that the network will provide a central place for people to discuss issues and feel included despite their differences.

Focus on solutions
The accommodation of your disability is in both you and your employer's interest, and there is a clear mutual benefit in you feeling supported and empowered at work. Accordingly, aim to be clear in outlining your issues and provide solutions to resolve them. You will go much further if you are viewed as resilient and helpful, rather than someone that relies on others to anticipate their needs. Ultimately, you are best placed to understand what will help you, so advance a positive case and advocate for yourself.

Be polite, positive and firm
Being junior, it can feel daunting to identify your differences or express your challenges. Nevertheless, it's a very important skill to cultivate. If you do not flag that you are struggling, colleagues will assume that you are fine and be confused when you cannot execute the tasks you are given. Combining a steadfastness in your intentions with a positive outlook and polite delivery will make others receptive to your requests and happy to help you.