‘I kept fainting’ – 23-year-old beats the odds to become UK’s 1st blind Black barrister

Mildred Europa Taylor November 01, 2022
Jessikha Inaba has made British history/Jessikah Inaba/Evening Standard

After studying for five years at a university in London, Jessikah Inaba, 23, has become the UK’s first blind and Black barrister. Inaba qualified for the Bar last week, having completed her full course in Braille. Her tutors and friends also helped. 

“It’s been crazy – I still can’t really believe I’ve done it. One day I’ll wake up and realise how amazing this is,” Inaba said, according to the Daily Mail. “It was hard and I often thought of giving up, but my supportive family gave me courage and strength.

“I always believed in myself from the start – there’s nothing about me which means this isn’t possible. It’s a really good feeling, I know I’m giving hope to others in similar situations to mine. There’s a triple-glazed glass ceiling.”

Inaba, from Camden, north London, is blind due to a condition called Bilateral microphthalmia, where people are born with smaller eyes than average. It can be caused by changes in one’s genes; an example is when one’s eyes didn’t form properly. Inaba grew up in Lewisham, south-east London with her parents and siblings and attended local mainstream schools and secondary school in Surrey. All the schools she attended had materials to support those with visual impairment. 

In September 2017, Inaba started studying law before starting a Master’s two years later, and a professional-development course. During her time at the University of Law – London Bloomsbury, there were challenges with sourcing materials in braille for her so she mostly made her own braille materials from her lecture notes, or relied on friends to read books to her. Sometimes, the university also organizes one-on-one tuition to help her with her studies. 

“I was spending more time preparing my own learning materials than I was studying. I was hospitalized because I kept fainting in October 2019 because I’d been functioning on about three hours sleep a night for two years. I would sometimes get 45 minutes a day to eat, but often I ate while at my computer.”

Currently, when Inaba is in court, she uses the Braille keyboard to read and edit documents by hand, while listening to proceedings. Her plan is to apply for a pupillage — where newly qualified barristers receive their first placement in chambers — when applications open in January.

“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,” the University of Law said.

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