23-year-old Jessikah Inaba has made history after becoming the first blind and Black barrister in the United Kingdom. Her success story was met with a huge round of congratulatory messages and as a reference of hope for those with special needs.
Jessikah Inaba was born with an eye condition called bilateral microphthalmia. The condition causes a baby’s eyes to be smaller than. She spent her childhood in southeast London’s Lewisham with her parents and siblings. Jessikah attended local mainstream schools and completed her secondary education in Surrey. Luckily, all of these schools provided for students who are visually impaired.
On September 2017, Jessikah Inaba began the journey into becoming a lawyer after bagging a degree, before pursuing a master’s degree in 2019, accompanied by a professional training course. She also studied at the University of Law in London. Inaba’s success didn’t easily land on an available platter of gold.
During her period of education at law school, she read in Braille from a special computer screen or specially printed books. Jessikah admitted that it took as long as seven months for her university to arrange one of her two key books while the other one took five months. in addition, the Braille screen on her computer often missed out on huge valuable tables or picture materials to facilitate her studies. The now-accomplished lawyer also had to improvise by making her Braille materials from lecture notes and sometimes relied on friends for reading books to her. She also benefitted from one-on-one tuition at the university.
There were times when she resorted to making her Braille materials from lecture notes and relied on friends for reading books to her, along with one-to-one tuition at the university. After her admittance to the Bar, Jessica Inaba says “she now dons her gown and wig with pride after having worked so hard to earn them.” According to a report by Mirror, Inaba lived on three hours of sleep for two years and ate at her desk all in her quest to be successful. It proved to be detrimental as her physical health was under immense threat. In 2019, she was admitted to Lewisham Hospital as she used to faint repeatedly and was also diagnosed with anaemia. “My blood count was really low and they had to give me an emergency iron infusion,” she said.
As familiar with the plight of black people, Jessikah Inaba faced race issues too. She said, “I would arrive to interview a detainee and I’d always get told it isn’t ‘visiting hours’ because they assumed I was a relative. I always had to explain that I was the lawyer.” Barrister Inaba now plans to apply for pupillage in January – a system where newly qualified barristers get placed in chambers for the first time.
She said, “I feel because of disabled access problems my results aren’t a true reflection of my ability. I reckon as a black person I have to work 10 times harder than others just to be accepted by society.”
Jessikah Inaba is currently using a tiny electronic machine with a Braille keyboard which has one key for each dot and a small screen where the symbols appear.
“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,”