Interview: 'I lost my sight when I was 21'

Andrew Curtis, 38, is a lawyer at the corporate law firm Addleshaw Goddard
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The Independent Online

I left school after my A-levels in 1988, and went to work as a management trainee for two years. I lost my sight when I was 21 and then took a couple of years off to retrain. On returning to work, I wasn't satisfied with the role they offered me. As a management trainee, I didn't think that answering the phones was much of a career.

So, I took the decision to go to university. The choices were fairly limiting; in terms of the things I was interested I was in, it was either physiotherapy or law. After a difficult decision, I decided to opt for a law degree, as I have always liked a challenge.

I decided to go to Hull University. I discussed my options with a blind tutor who worked there and he seemed to think that it would be extremely difficult for me, but not impossible. In the end they advised me to submit my application through Ucas and granted me a place.

I had to record all of my lectures on a tape recorder and then at home I would listen to it all again and make notes. Meanwhile, my wife would read my textbooks onto tape for me to listen to. I was also an international athlete - I competed at three Paralympics - so trying to fit that in too was extremely hard. Through hard work and perseverance I achieved a first-class degree, so it was worthwhile in the end.

I contacted Addleshaw Booth & Co - as they were called then - in 2002, and they were interested in offering me a position. In September 2005 I started on a training contract, and recently qualified into the commercial department. My job covers anything to do with contracts, negotiations and competition law, and there is quite a lot of corporate support involved. I'm also standing as a litigator to develop my contentious competition skills.

On my computer there's a software system called Jaws, which reads everything out to me that is on screen. With textbooks, I can either scan them onto the computer or my support workers sit down at my desk and read them out to me. They also make sure that the presentation of my work matches the quality of the content, and help with things like filling out forms and taking me to meetings with clients.

I can't always work to other people's speed, so I have to be able to tell people that I work a bit differently. The firm always backs me up on anything I need, but they're of the opinion that I'm the expert on how to cope with my disability. They appreciate that they can't impose things upon me that I can't control.

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