by Angela Winfield, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Law School Admission Council; Board member, Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation
As we celebrate Law Day on May 1, and the importance of the law in securing and ensuring access for the blind and visually impaired community (BVI), we cannot underestimate the importance of recognizing that support leads to progress. When we support the aspirations of individuals who are blind and visually impaired to join the legal profession, we advance as a community, a profession, and as a society.
When I was four years old, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, cataracts, glaucoma, and uveitis. By age ten I was legally blind. Yet, I aspired to become an attorney. With the unwavering support of my parents, teachers (including teachers for the visually impaired), guidance counselors, mobility instructors, the New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB) and others, I learned the skills to pursue my chosen path.
After graduating from high school, I attended Barnard College of Columbia University in New York City. During my sophomore year, I suffered a flare-up of my uveitis and lost what little vision I had. By age 20 I was totally blind. With the support of various programs, employment opportunities, and skill-building experiences, including serving as an intern for Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation, I gained the confidence to apply to, attend, and graduate from Cornell Law School.
After earning my J.D. and passing the New York bar exam, I practiced law with a major firm, later accepting the position of Associate Vice President for Inclusion and Workforce Diversity at Cornell University. Today, I am Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer for the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), where I work to ensure that students who dream of being a lawyer – including those who are blind or visually impaired – not only have an organization that believes in them, but one that also seeks to create pathways and increase access to the law. LSAC’s mission is to advance law and justice by encouraging diverse, talented individuals to study law and by supporting their enrollment and learning journeys from prelaw through practice. To learn more about LSAC’s work regarding diversity related to disabilities, race or ethnicity and other backgrounds, visit the website page on Diversity in Law School.
It is my honor and privilege to serve in this capacity and I celebrate those who have come before me, who support those on the pathway, and those who will come after me. Together, through collective efforts, we will continue to make progress.