Podcast

The Hearing Podcast: ‘Disability isn’t just sticks and wheelchairs’

By on
6

Solicitor turned diversity champion Yasmin Sheikh shares her story

Yasmin Sheikh

Yasmin Sheikh woke up one day paralysed from the waist down — aged just 29.

Sheikh was a personal injury lawyer at international firm, Clyde & Co; she was fit and healthy, sociable, a non-smoker and a vegetarian, when a spinal stroke led, without warning, to the loss of the use of both her legs.

In the latest episode of The Hearing podcast, Sheikh speaks candidly to Child & Child partner Kevin Poulter about how her life has changed since then and how she wants to challenge the daily “microaggressions” against her and others like her.

A year in rehabilitation followed Sheikh’s injury and she soon found herself looking at the world differently. “I was surrounded by charities and other disabled people with these incredible stories. That’s what sparked my interest in diversity”, she tells Poulter.

Returning to work, Sheikh explains how she felt conscious of the way her colleagues perceived her : “I didn’t know who I was and felt as if I was a burden… by that point I ticked every box: I was a mixed-race woman and a wheelchair user.”

After 12 years working successfully in law, Sheikh decided to give it up to found Diverse Matters, a training consultancy firm specialising in diversity and disability.

Living with a disability day-to-day, Sheikh has dealt with her fair share of prejudicial incidents, or what she has termed “microaggressions”. She explains:

“They range from fairly innocuous things like someone asking whether I’m okay if I happen to look down at my phone for a while when out and about in my wheelchair to some pretty horrible things. To them, it’s just one incident, but for me it’s hundreds on a daily basis.”

It is incidents like this that Sheikh is working hard to combat. Diverse Matters partners with a number of law firms — including Mayer Brown and Eversheds Sutherland — to encourage staff to embrace diversity and disability through training workshops, tailored seminars and interactive events.

“Disability isn’t just sticks and wheelchairs”, says Sheikh, “it’s all forms we can’t see such as cancer, diabetes or mental health conditions”. Part of her role is to make sure law firms are attuned to this and understand how they can get the best out of their lawyers and support staff who may have less visible conditions.

Alongside her consultancy work, Sheikh has taken up a whole host of other projects. She is the vice-chair of the Law Society’s Lawyers with Disabilities Division and has taken to the screen and stage as an actress and stand-up comedian.

You can hear more about Sheikh’s life and campaign to change attitudes to disability in the workplace in The Hearing podcast.

Listen to the podcast above or download it for free on iTunesSoundCloud and Spotify

6 Comments

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Of course.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

What bit of the policy did that breach????

It asked if biologically non-disabled people could self-identify as disabled if that is how they “feel” inside.

Why is that so ridiculous if a biological male can self-identify as a woman?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Politics, dear boygirl, politics.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

A proper article on Legal Cheek for once. Nice to see.

(9)(0)

Anonymous

Not all heros eat cakes

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.

Related Stories