My name is Jason Mitschele. I am a blind Federal Prosecutor in Toronto with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada where I manage a team of over 20 lawyers conducting wiretap prosecutions throughout Ontario. This role for me marks the culmination of a very long and arduous journey to acceptance among my peers and within the legal community. Previously the practice of law was one where lawyers living with a disability dare not go. Our profession was resistant to change and not open to someone who was perceived as being different.
Fortunately, I have experienced a significant shift toward inclusion and the acceptance of diversity over my 20 years of practice. The path has not been easy, however, and there have been many roadblocks on the way. These challenges included a combination of a very heavy workload and, most significantly, people’s attitudes towards maintaining the status quo: the idea that “we have always done it this way so why change now.” Unfortunately, this type of thinking was prevalent within the legal profession until relatively recently.
For these reasons, the notion of a totally blind team leader responsible for a team of senior lawyers would have been unheard of and unthinkable until now. I want to publically thank the Public Prosecution Service of Canada for truly putting me on a level playing field with my colleagues. My experiences as a manager have enhanced my leadership skills and I believe that putting a person with a disability in charge of a team of their able-bodied peers shows a significant commitment to the advancement of people with disabilities. I often wondered if I would get here but I have arrived.