My EmployAbility – Vaibhav Adlakha

01 Mar 2015

My name is Vaibhav Adlakha. I have had Cerebral Palsy since birth due to which I have restricted mobility in my arms and legs and use a wheelchair. I also have Visual Motor Perception which impacts my sense of direction and figures. I live in the Netherlands and after finishing my schooling (2004) from The American School of The Hague, I completed my University studies from Warwick University (2007) and BPP Law School (2008) in the U.K. I also did the Advanced Masters in Air and Space Law from Leiden University in the Netherlands (2010).

My journey from Disability to Ability has not been an easy one. Born in India, I quickly learnt about the mental and physical challenges I would have to face just to be able to dare to dream, let alone going about achieving those dreams. Not only would I have to convince others of my ability at various stages, but also to myself, since doubts often manifested themselves as to how far I could go. As you reach an objective, new aspirations take shape along with new barriers. I soon realised the importance of having no fear, greater self-confidence, along with effective communication in order to dispel preconceived notions as well as to create new ones. I also realised that challenges are what help you grow and mature, and it is all about how you deal with them, that allows you to extend your boundaries.

My move to the Netherlands from India opened new possibilities and at the same time, brought new challenges. Participating in the Model United Nations and Model International Court of Justice, gave direction to my passion for law. The LL.B and LPC further nurtured my aspirations to become a solicitor and succeed in the legal profession. However, this was also the time of my greatest challenge, as entering the legal profession and securing a Training Contract proved to be a very difficult proposition. Because of my strong application and academic record, I was invited by a large number of law firms for interviews but without success.

During this period, I came across EmployAbility at one of the Law Career Fairs organised by the University. It was reassuring to meet someone who could look into things from your perspective giving confidence and support. Before I met the people from EmployAbility, I did not know how to deal with having a disability in the work place and felt that it was something that needed to be hidden to give me a chance in this competitive environment. I did not know which companies to approach, how and when to disclose my disability. I always thought that even asking for adjustments would put me at a disadvantage, so I tried to ask for minimal adjustments. I felt continuous pressure to perform well in order to overcompensate for my disability.  EmployAbility guided me about the firms which I could approach and gave me confidence not to allow my disability to overshadow my performance. With their support, I felt as if I was on equal footing and that there was someone to speak for me. Even if I did not succeed at interviews, I was able to give my best shot with EmployAbility giving me the necessary support. This support mechanism was vital and significant throughout the process.

Looking for a new beginning, I came back to the Netherlands in 2008.  I completed a Masters in Aviation and Space Law. From 2010 – 2014, I worked with the Netherlands Competition Authorities, Unilever, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment and HiiL Innovating Justice. Since August 2014, I am working with Global Human Rights Defence. These experiences helped me to deal with my weaknesses and strive towards my ultimate goal of re-entering the legal profession. I wanted to get back up where I had previously fallen due to repeated rejections over a long period of time.

Throughout my stay in the Netherlands, I kept in touch with EmployAbility and looked for opportunities in the U.K. They continued their guidance and support. In August 2014, I applied via EmployAbility for a Training Contract at Reed Smith. They played a vital role and provided support at every stage of the process, from making the application to going through each stage of the Assessment Day. They worked with the firm to ensure that all my special requirements, like extra time and scribe, were taken care of so that I could give my best performance. Justin Penney from EmployAbility was there with me throughout the day which was extremely helpful for both me and the firm. Due to this support and confidence along with the positive mindset of Reed Smith, I was successful in finally securing a Training Contract. I am assured that the support given by EmployAbility does not stop when one has secured employment but shall continue even after, in terms of settling in the work environment.

EmployAbility has played an important role for me and I am sure they will continue to be so for many others. They have been instrumental in helping me understand that the key to success is to have no inhibitions and reservations about yourself and your ability, because only then can you dispel the reservations that others may have about you. EmployAbility may not be able to solve the problem completely but can prepare you to face it with confidence. I believe that organisations like EmployAbility have a crucial role to play, not only to ensure that people with disabilities can perform well and get a foot in the door but also ensure that the decision making process is fair and feedback constructive. It is often hard to say whether a company feedback is genuinely based on your performance or a way for them to mask their own insecurities regarding the effect your disability will have in the workplace. If an EmployAbility representative can be allowed to sit in the decision making process for their candidate, this will ensure transparency and greater development.

My path in life has been full of trials and tribulations but it has also given me the confidence to  never fear failure and continue to prove to people even today that having a disability does not inhibit you. I’m not saying that I have always been successful in this task, as I too have faced difficulties and obstacles and still do today and probably will always. But, what I have learnt from my experiences is that it is important to have a good support system around you to keep your spirits high. It is also important for yourself to remain upbeat and positive about what you can achieve.

As I enter the legal profession, I know I will face obstacles and will always need support to do certain things and will need to put in a lot of effort which may be difficult. But what I have learnt is that life is a journey and it is best to enjoy the adventure despite the ups and downs, challenges or disappointments. One must always keep learning and developing oneself because trust in oneself and in one’s ability will help to face any challenge that come along the way. As Roosevelt once said “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

At EmployAbility we work with disabled university students and graduates to ease the transition from education into employment. To take advantage of these opportunities, the first step is to register with us. You can also contact us with any specific queries.

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Attending the Clifford Chance EmployAbility event really opened my eyes to the changing attitudes of law firms in the UK and how they view disability.

RS - Law Student - University of Hertfordshire

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