Woman makes history as UK’s first black blind barrister

Jessikah Inaba, who is also Congolese, qualified last month after five years of legal study at the University of Law in London.

Is allowance instantly strangers applauded

A 23-year-old woman has in what's been described as smashing a ‘triple-glazed glass ceiling’ to become Britain’s first black and blind barrister. 

Jessikah Inaba, who is also Congolese, qualified last month after five years of legal study at the University of Law in London. 

She started her accelerated law degree in September 2017 before starting a master’s two years later alongside a professional training course, said media outlet, Metro UK. She was admitted to the British Bar as the country’s first black-blind lawyer on October 13, 2022. 

Using Braille, a writing system used by people who are visually impaired, and with the help of friends and tutors, she managed to complete her entire course.

She told media outlets, Metro UK and the Voice of Congo in interviews that it was a difficult journey because resources could not be prepared in time into the format she could study from. She said in instances, it took her university seven months to obtain one of her two key study texts so she could read on her computer, and five months for the other.

“This ultimately led to me graduating 2 years later than planned, but despite all the hardships and difficulty I encountered, I am delighted to say today that I succeeded,” she told the Voice of Congo. 

Speaking to Metro UK, she said: “I was spending more time preparing my own learning materials than I was studying. I was hospitalised because I kept fainting in October 2019 because I’d been functioning on about three hours of sleep a night for two years. I would sometimes get 45 minutes a day to eat, but often I ate while at my computer. The university had other visually impaired people who used text-to-speech, but I just can’t work like that.

“I need to read it physically for myself or I can’t remember it. Everyone is different and has a different work around for various situations. A lot of people registered blind have some vision, so they can sometimes use large print, or some blind people manage well just by listening to text. Braille is expensive to produce because you need a lot of special software and equipment.”

Commenting, the University of Law is quoted by the Indian outlet FirstPost to have said, “Jess is the first black and blind student to study at The University of Law. There were challenges with sourcing materials in braille but we were pleased to be able to provide these eventually. We are extremely proud of Jess’ achievements and we know she will be an inspiration to all students, showing that you can succeed in the face of physical challenges.”

Jessikah is blind because of an eye condition called Bilateral microphthalmia, where babies are born with smaller eyes than usual. But despite her condition, she says she believes in herself in doing the job really well.

“There’s a triple-glazed glass ceiling. I’m not the most common gender or colour, and I have a disability, but by pushing through I’m easing the burden on the next person like me. It’s really good feeling. I know I’m giving hope to others in similar situations to mine.”

She also plans to apply for pupillage in January.