Dundee lecturer Rachael Wallace uses disability experiences to advocate for others

Dundee lecturer Rachael Wallace uses disability experiences to advocate for others

A University of Dundee lecturer who will today receive her PhD is combining her personal experiences and legal expertise to help transform the lives of other disabled people.

Rachael Wallace will receive her doctorate at the university’s graduation ceremony at Caird Hall this afternoon. For the past year she has been part of both the student and staff communities at Dundee, having been appointed as a lecturer at the School of Humanities, Social Sciences and Law while putting the finishing touches to her PhD.

Ms Wallace, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, specialises in disability rights and medical law, with her thesis exploring ways of widening access to the Scottish legal profession for disabled graduates and solicitors. She also works closely with the Law Society of Scotland on their widening access policies and sits on its Equalities Law Committee.

This will be her fourth graduation from the university as she previously obtained her LLB, diploma in legal practice and masters qualifications from Dundee.

“My poor mum and dad have had to do an awful lot of clapping at all my graduation ceremonies,” she said.

“Law was something I always wanted to do. When I was at school, we participated in a mock trial at Glasgow Sheriff Court and that was what really ignited my passion for law. I also always knew that I wanted to work in disability rights and equality law and envisaged myself going into practice. However, when I graduated I found it harder than it should have been to get a traineeship due to discrimination.

“That made me think about an alternative career and I thought academia was somewhere that my abilities would be respected above everything else. All that fired my desire to ensure that other disabled people had access to law as a profession.

“I am part of a group called Disabling Barriers Scotland that is dedicated to fighting for disability rights and looks at where reasonable adjustments can be made to help disabled students and solicitors to realise their potential in the legal profession.

“Disabling Barriers Scotland also acts as a network for disabled lawyers, advocates to create a more inclusive profession, and takes part in high-level meetings with the Scottish Government and the Law Society of Scotland about the obstacles we face.”

Ms Wallace’s relationship with the University dates back to 2009, when she first matriculated as an undergraduate student, and she is full of praise for the support she has received in that time.

“From the outset, the University’s Disability Services team have been brilliant and the law staff were very helpful as well,” she continued. “My life at the University has been fantastic and the reasonable adjustments I have asked for to improve accessibility have all been made.

“My colleagues here knew me as a student and have always seen me as a person and do not see my disability. I feel I am respected for my skillset and valued for what I bring to the team, and I hope my work in this area improves the lives of other disabled people.”

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