Tarik Kadri begins his work day by bumming a ride from his Oregon home to his law office on Adams Street in downtown Toledo.
Few professions generate as much paperwork as law, so, as you might expect, a typical day can be full of reading briefs and doing research. The ability to skim a document and pull out relevant information is important to an attorney. But, Tarik doesn’t have that ability. He was born with juvenile macular degeneration, a condition in which a clouded retina results in a reduction in central vision. Tarik uses a reading magnifier with 35 times magnification. He passes the printed page under the scanner and places his eyes a few inches from the monitor. The monitor displays up to three words at a time, depending on word length.
Because he can only see a few words, skimming irrelevant copy is not possible. Tarik also must keep a steady hand as small movements will cause the page to jump and him to lose his place.
Tarik also has custom made glasses with eight times magnification. To use them, however, he must hunch over the page with his eyes just a few inches above the words. The strain on his eyes, shoulders, back and neck require him to take frequent breaks.
Reading is slightly better on the computer with software called ZoomText Magnifier.
Once his reading is complete, Tarik must walk to court. He’s legally blind, he can’t drive.
“I can’t see stop lights. I wait for the cars to stop. Then, I walk across the street. I can see a car. They are pretty big. The problem is when there are no cars going down one street and at the intersection other cars are stopped. I can’t tell how long they’ve been stopped. I can’t tell how long the light’s been green so sometimes I’ll just stop and wait until the cars move and re-stop. That way I can make sure I’m not walking in front of a car when the light is turning green,” he said
Tarik, 29, passed the bar exam November 9. He recently made his first court appearance to ask a judge to sign an order for a lien-holder who needed a car released from impound.
“I was nervous. I couldn’t see the judge at all. I couldn’t see if she was looking at me or what she was doing with her hands.” Nevertheless, he came away with the order.
Tarik doesn’t see macular degeneration as a disability. This is normalcy for him. He’s lived with the condition all his life so he’s learned some “tricks” to allow him to compete. For instance, he used to go to campus a day before classes started to memorize his route. He also depends on family and friends. His parents, Emmett and Amira, have supported him financially, read to him and instilled in him confidence to tackle challenges. Fellow students helped him by taking notes of the power-point presentations Tarik wasn’t able to see. More recently, his aunt has helped him. Cherrefe Kadri, has been a general practice attorney for 16 years and a former acting judge in Oregon for six years. She has become Tarik’s mentor. They share the office and Cherrefe is showing Tarik how to build a client base.
She is confident he will do well. “He’s so bright and he has a great personality. I don’t see his condition as being a challenge unless someone is giving him visual cues. Once, the members of the bar get to know him and know that he has a visual deficiency they will use more verbal cues.”
Tarik will start his career working small claims, juvenile court cases, domestic relations and real estate. He’s come a long way from Starr Elementary where he read special large print books and was granted extra time to take tests. He admits to not working as hard as he should have at Clay, where he graduated with a 2.2 GPA. But, he did better at the University of Toledo where he graduated in five years with a 2.8 GPA and a major in finance.
Due to his father’s interest in the stock market, Tarik initially wanted to work in finance, however, he soon found the field too limiting and was attracted to law because of its variety. He failed at his first attempt taking the law school admissions test, but enrolled in a four-week LSAT prep course and passed the second time.
Had Tarik entered law school 20 years ago, his path would have been much more difficult. Technology, however, has helped Tarik. A growing electronic data base of court cases and law books, coupled with search programs such as LexisNexis, have made conducting research a lot easier than physically pulling case law off library shelves and using a hand held magnifier to read them.
The law profession can be an entry point into politics and Tarik is not ruling that out. He already has his cause celebre—he would like to bring TARTA bus service to Oregon so he, and others with mobility issues, can live independently and get to work.