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Empowering youth with disabilities

In honour and celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities event, Law Matters interviewed Calgary lawyer Taylor Grantham to discuss her book, "Play Your Way" and lessons for the legal profession.

Kids in a playground

Talyor Grantham is an associate at a boutique litigation and family law practice in Calgary. A graduate of the University of Calgary Faculty of Law, a passionate social justice advocate and pro bono volunteer, she was diagnosed with mild spastic diplegic cerebral palsy at 16.

She is the author of a book series, "Play Your Way," which promotes inclusion and empowerment of children of all abilities to play their way. The series is now available for purchase, and the proceeds from the series will eventually fund the Play Your Way Foundation.

Kate Millar: In the last 12 months, you have achieved several important milestones in your legal career (completing your articles, being called to the Alberta Bar, and launching your practice as a lawyer). What made you decide to write a book in the midst of it all? 

Taylor Grantham: I am very fortunate to have the support of my firm, family, and friends, so it was an easy decision. The pandemic gave me the motivation and the opportunity to write the series.

I wanted to create something that would promote inclusion and empowerment, while simultaneously funding an independent foundation that could support low-income families and people with disabilities in the future.

KM: Why did you think it was important to write a book to promote inclusion and empowerment of children of all abilities to play their way?

TG: I think it is important for all kids to see themselves in the books they read because inclusion ultimately leads to empowerment.

KM: What lessons do you think the legal profession can take away from your book series? 

TG: The importance of kindness. In an adversarial profession, it is easy to forget we all fight non-legal battles too.

KM: What barriers do you think students and younger lawyers with disabilities face when they enter the legal profession? 

TG: I think the biggest barriers people with disabilities face generally are accessibility and stigma. In the legal world, that can mean anything from access to an office for someone with a physical disability to adaptive technologies for someone with a visual or auditory disability. In terms of stigma, I think most people underestimate people with disabilities, which in the legal world, could be an advantage.

KM: What role do members of the bar play in eliminating barriers to entry into the profession for disabled students and young lawyers? 

TG: I think the best way to eliminate barriers in the profession is to encourage lawyers with disabilities to talk about their experience. Lawyers feel an immense amount of pressure to be perfect, despite the fact that none of us are. This pressure is particularly challenging for disabled students and lawyers.

I also think our role goes somewhat beyond eliminating barriers in the profession, and extends to eliminating barriers to access to justice for people with disabilities. As lawyers, we generally enjoy a very privileged position in society because of our education, experience, and socioeconomic status, and it would be wonderful to see more lawyers use their privilege to help others.

KM: You often mix your great sense of humor with candid conversations about your disability. How has that translated into conversations with your clients?

TG: I am glad someone besides myself thinks I am funny. I work primarily in family law, employment, and human rights. My files are often very personal and emotional for clients. I have found a sense of humour helps to develop a relationship with your client, and can be helpful when delivering necessary and candid advice, or having a difficult conversation.

KM: Do you feel that as a litigator you have faced any stigma as a result of your disability? 

TG: I haven't. The Calgary Bar is wonderful that way.

I would actually like to thank a number of active members who helped make the Play Your Way Series and Foundation possible, including Natalie and Tate Reeder of Stonetree Law, Vince Semenuk of Dunn and Associates, Kate Millar of Dentons, Jeffrey Holloway of Burnet Duckworth and Palmer, and Rami Pander of Field Law.

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities, is observed annually on December 3rd since being proclaimed in 1992 by the United Nations General Assembly, to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and increase awareness of their situation in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.