A week after he entered Washburn University’s School of Law in August 2011, Bryan Alkire nearly quit. He wasn’t sure if he would fit in with the other students or be able to meet the challenges of its rigorous curriculum. His doubts proved to be unfounded. This coming Friday, Alkire, who is partially blind and partially deaf, will graduate with his law degree. “I’m hoping to go into a small-town general practice, handling all kinds of cases,” Alkire, 33, of Topeka, said during a recent email interview. “My plans are to take the Missouri bar exam in July 2014 and while studying for the bar exam, I’ll be looking for a job in Missouri, preferably in a small town.” Alkire, a native of Lexington, Mo., was born with a partially paralyzed right arm, hand, and fingers and a severe hearing loss. After graduating from Lexington High School in 1999, he went to Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., where he graduated in May 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in history and political science. About six weeks before his college graduation, he began losing his vision because of complications related to surgeries to treat a detached retina and acute angle glaucoma. He lost most of the vision in his left eye, and the vision in his right eye was reduced to light, some color and some motion.
After attending the Helen Keller National Center in Sands Point, N.Y., and the Lions World Services for the Blind in Little Rock, Ark., he completed a job training program for the Internal Revenue Service. He moved to Kansas City in October 2007 to work for the IRS, but within a few months his vision had declined so much he had to resign. In April 2010, Alkire spent a couple of months at Alphapointe Association for the Blind to ready himself to return to an academic setting. Tell me about the most challenging aspects of law school and getting your law degree.
The most challenging aspect of law school is keeping up with the material over the course of the semester. Often there’s 50 or more pages to read every day, and the material isn’t the easiest to read. Then, of course, there’s the finals. I’d say keeping mentally focused and not letting the stress and lack of sleep and physical ailments, like colds, become overwhelming is the most challenging aspect mentally. Tell me about the most rewarding aspect of your law school experience.
Without a doubt, meeting people at Washburn Law that I never would have met otherwise. I’ve met some very special people in my time here. When I’ve left a place and moved on, I tend to remember the people more than the classes or work itself. Early on, you didn’t have a study group, and socializing with peers was difficult. Did that ever change or get better? Yes and no. I never did study with others, but I did socialize a bit more with peers as I got to know more people at school.
Did you require, and did the university offer, any special accommodations because of your hearing and vision impairments? Did you have any special equipment that helped in the classroom? I used an FM system to hear the professor in class. It’s a system where the prof wears a special microphone and I wear a special receiver tuned to a frequency through a setting on my hearing aid. When on, the FM device allows me to hear the prof as though the prof was sitting next to me (and) speaking directly to me. For textbooks, I used PDF copies of my texts, which my computer would read out loud to me. For exams, I took my exams in a room where I would read the exam on my computer and then dictate my answers to a person sitting next to me.
What advice would you give to individuals with disabilities who may have doubts about whether they can succeed in a higher-education setting? First, remember that the school has confidence in you. They accepted you based on your application and test scores, regardless of what challenges you’ve faced. The school wants you to succeed and wants to help you succeed. In order to help you, they need to understand you and what you need to succeed since no one solution works for every disabled person. This means you need to develop a close relationship with the people who handle accommodations so that everyone can figure out what works and what doesn’t. You need to educate them on the things you need to succeed. Educate your fellow students as well so they can help you as needed and get to know you. If you have all the support you need and enjoy the program you’re in, then there’s no reason you can’t succeed. It’s challenging, but remember, it’s challenging for everyone, not just the disabled.
Source : cjonline.com/news/local/2013-12-07/partially-blind-deaf-washburn-student-graduate-law-degree