Faith Cameletti, Law Student & Disability Rights Advocate

Faith Cameletti is a disability rights advocate and the founder of Lamp In Hand, a blog dedicated to helping people to “shine their own light”. Toronto-based, she’s also in her final year of law school at York University. Here, she tells FLARE how she made it.

Faith Cameletti

Faith Cameletti; @faithcameletti

How do you describe your job to your family?

I’m a writer, law student and disability rights advocate. I run a blog called Lamp in Hand that publishes original writing and art, and promotes the work of other artists and makers. Our tag line is “storytelling for social good.”

Where did you go to school and what did you study?

I went to St. Jerome’s University at the University of Waterloo and studied medieval history for my undergraduate degree. I always joke that I wanted “the nerdiest degree possible.” I’m currently in my last year at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto.

What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)

I worked for St. Jerome’s and the University of Waterloo as a liaison officer. I had just decided not to pursue graduate school in history and needed a new direction, but most importantly, a job to pay bills after graduation. It was essentially a marketing and recruitment position. I traveled across Ontario talking to high school students and their parents about why they should apply to our university specifically. It gave me a lot of public speaking experience and lead me to my next job, which eventually led me to law.

What was your BIG break? How did you land it?

I would say my big break was this past year when I got to intern at ARCH Disability Law Centre. It wasn’t a traditional “big break” like you see in film or television. In fact, the internship program I participated in takes about 12 law students each year. It was my “big break” though because it was BIG. As a person with a disability, I have been advocating for myself my entire life. ARCH is a specialty community legal aid clinic dedicated to advancing the equality rights of people with disabilities, and it is at the forefront of impacting disability law in Canada. Working at ARCH was making it to the big leagues in terms of impact.

What would you say has been your most significant setback, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?

My biggest career set-back ended up being a blessing. I have always wanted to be a writer and at one point, I thought the best fit for this would be academia. In my final year of university, when it was time to apply to graduate school, I panicked at the labour market data. At the time, one in 10 PhD candidates in Ontario were securing tenure track positions in their field. Considering that I wanted to study medieval history—such a niche topic—and that the academic job market was already so tight, I was advised by one of my most trusted professors not to apply to a history program. As a “Hail Mary” move, I decided to apply for a business masters program. It was my last semester of my undergraduate degree when I realized I didn’t get in. I had no idea what to do. That’s when I applied for the liaison position. It ended up being such a blessing because working for a few years was valuable experience. I was able to really reflect on what work I enjoyed, what I was good at and where I wanted to work. It felt like end of world at time, but it was the rejection from that business masters program that eventually led me on my current path. A few years after being rejected from a program I wasn’t even interested in, I was accepted into my top choice law school.

Who is your favourite person to follow on social media from your industry? What do you love about their social feeds?

I love Anne Theriault: her literary quips on Twitter first caught my eye, but it’s her long-form writing that keeps me around. She writes about mental health with such vulnerability and clarity it takes my breath away. For law-related content, I love following my supervisor David Lepofsky on Twitter and YouTube. He recently did a series of videos that show how new buildings have been built with public tax dollars, met building code requirements and everything, yet are very inaccessible to persons with disabilities, including persons with varying mobility, visual and hearing abilities.

How would you describe your industry in terms of representation and inclusivity?

Law is a very traditional field that suffers from a lack of representation. If you look at stats on diversity and lawyers in Ontario and Canada, the profession is very white. Black and Indigenous populations are not well represented and there are too many barriers preventing bright, capable persons with disabilities from getting into law school. For example, the LSAT is a huge barrier for many persons with a variety of different disabilities.

Looking to the future, what worries you most about your chosen profession?

[I worry about] the affordability of legal services going forward and access to justice for middle class and low income people. As the market shifts, legal services are becoming less and less affordable but legal problems are everyday problems: going through a separation, getting sexually harassed at work, issues with your landlord.

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