Melanie Grimsley graduates this winter with a Master’s in Law, Access to Justice.
Having graduated from Law in 2015 from the Derry~Londonderry campus, Melanie took some time out of education to relocate and raise her children alongside working, which helped her get the practical experience to complement what she learnt during her undergrad. Once her children were settling into secondary school, Melanie returned to education and began a part-time Master’s at Ulster University’s Belfast campus.
With the pandemic in full flow, Melanie completed the first year of her two-year Master’s completely online – something she found difficult at times:
“It is quite daunting and scary to return to education as a parent in normal circumstances, but even more so with the added pressure of the pandemic. Balancing homeschooling, as well as my own work and studying online was particularly challenging. I went through times where I found it difficult to cope with such a massive workload.”
Thankfully, Melanie was able to find support when things were at their most challenging:
“I reached out to my tutors and staff in the Ulster University Law Clinic and I’m so glad that I did. They were understanding and supportive in helping me manage my workload. This, along with my love for this subject, really helped me persevere. All the struggle is so worth it to be where I am now.”
In the second year of her Master’s, Melanie was able to return to in-person teaching and began working with the Law Clinic at Ulster University. The Law Clinic offers free, independent, and confidential legal advice and representation, specialising in employment and social security issues, and also offers one-off advice on family law matters to those in need.
It was during her Master’s that Melanie’s two areas of professional and personal interest began to come together – her love of law, and her interest in the area of disability discrimination, particularly in relation to the legal status of visible difference. The latter is close to her heart and something Melanie has first-hand experience of.
When Melanie was just two years old, she was involved in a car fire in which she lost her older sister and suffered severe burns. Melanie has used her experience to do something positive – start a conversation about visible difference, working with charity Changing Faces, as well as Face Equality International, to have visual difference recognised as an equality and human rights issue.
This is a subject that Melanie is passionate about, and she is keen conversations about visible difference start taking place more widely:
“Visible difference is a topic that still needs further research and advocacy. There is still a lot of social stigma attached to those with visible differences and I hope that with further research I can change that. I want to encourage, embolden and inspire my peers. I want to be a positive example for those with visible differences, who like me at one stage, couldn’t see where they fit. I want to challenge beauty ideals and stretch the concepts of disability and ‘normal’. I want to make people stare but in a good way. For the first time in my life, I want to be seen instead of being invisible.”
Melanie is currently working in children and special educational needs law at Nicholas Quinn Solicitors. She hopes to continue research into visible difference in a legal context, continue her important advocacy work and one day undertake a PhD in this field.
To find out more about the Master’s Melanie studied, visit: https://www.ulster.ac.uk/courses/202324/access-to-justice-30378