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Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training
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Stepping Into: Case Study - Lawyer

Chris takes a step closer to employment

Chris Rodrigo, 27, from Alexandria is currently in his final year studying Law at the University of Technology, Sydney.

Last year he took part in the Australian Network on Disability’s Stepping Into program, a paid internship for students with disability in leading Australian Businesses.

His aim was to join a commercial organisation so he could learn more about commercial and corporate law and discover if it is an area of interest for his future career. He was placed at Telstra.

Chris has low vision due to optic neuritis, a condition where the nerve passing messages to and from the eye isn’t working properly, resulting in permanently blurred eyesight.

In the past he has felt that his disability has been a barrier to finding meaningful employment.

“When I’ve felt like I could have performed well, there has been something holding me back. I don’t feel like I’m on a level playing field and I have a sense that there is no real equality in the workplace,” says Chris.

Chris reflects on his time at Telstra positively. He feels that the organisation put him in a position where he felt completely equal and wasn’t defined by his disability but on how he contributed to the team.

“Telstra made some simple adjustments to my workspace so that it was set up in a way that I could see things properly. They did this in a way that didn’t look obvious. I felt they really cared about making sure I was comfortable on the program,” said Chris.

Chris’s long term career goal is to use his voice and passion for language to influence, help and motivate others.

“Telstra gave me the opportunity to present in front of the entire legal team. I spoke about my personal story. It was challenging and confronting, but worthwhile. I am much more confident as a result,” he said. 

He added, “My internship has made a big difference. I’m happy to walk into a room and not feel like I am being judged straight off. It has helped me be comfortable to just be myself. It is humbling and liberating.”

The Australian Network on Disability has opened applications for the 2016/2017 Stepping Into program.  It is available to penultimate or final year university students registered with Disability Services at their university, who want to gain some paid hands-on work experience in their chosen field of study.

Details about positions are available on the Stepping Into webpages and, for additional questions, call 1300 363 645.

Over the winter 2015 and summer 2015-16 Stepping Into programs, there were 134 placements made. On completion, 29 students have been offered ongoing employment.