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As a client liaison manager at Irwin Mitchell, Anne Luttman-Johnson worked closely with the spinal cord injury community for over a decade, regularly championing the rights of disabled people.

Anne has been a wheelchair user since an accident in 1984, which gave her a unique understanding of her clients’ needs and frustrations. After working tirelessly to support many people during a 30 year career, Anne sadly decided to retire last summer.

We caught up with Anne and asked her a few questions about her career and the clients she supported along the way.

Q - You helped hundreds of clients during your career, but what did you learn?

A - “However difficult a situation, the ability to smile and learn to be patient is vital, especially when things take longer to do and everything you knew seems to have suddenly changed.

“It takes time, but I have accepted that there are things that I might need help to do, which is always a hard lesson to learn. But people do want to help, so it is OK to ask for it - my family and friends were amazing and it’s always great to see clients’ rehabilitation take place around a strong support network. “I have met some wonderful people in my career and I just hope I’ve been able to make a positive difference to their lives.”

Q - What advice would you give to anyone who’s just coming to terms with their spinal cord injury?

A - “A spinal cord injury is not an easy thing to overcome and you must give yourself time to grieve for what you have lost. However, in that process you will come to see that life is not over and you can still have a very good life with a spinal cord injury, albeit a different one to how you probably imagined.

“There is a huge amount of support out there, to help you to get the most out of life and although you will have difficult moments - we all do - you can still do a lot of what you used to enjoy.”

Q - You’re a wheelchair user – can you tell us a bit more about your accident and how you dealt with the early months?

A - “I was injured 35 years ago, at the age of 21, in a road traffic collision. At the time I was just finishing my law degree at Oxford Polytechnic – now Oxford Brookes University. During the six months I spent in hospital I had the most amazing support from family and friends, who kept me positive, and helped me commit to my rehab.

“I was determined that my injury would not stop me doing what I had planned to do - become a solicitor. I was discharged from hospital at Christmas and the next few months were probably my lowest as I went back to my parents’ house, which was not very accessible, and tried to pick up the pieces of my life.

“Gradually life improved, first when I got a lightweight wheelchair, followed a month later by a car and then eventually my own accessible flat. In September 1985 I went to Law School and finally my life was back on track.”

Q - Do you think being a wheelchair user helped when it came to supporting and working with the disabled community?

A - “Without a shadow of doubt having a spinal cord injury and using a wheelchair has been a huge asset to me in my career. When I first qualified as a solicitor I worked in private client care, however, it very soon became clear to me that I should use the specialist knowledge and experience that I had gained as someone with a spinal cord injury to help others in that situation.

“Whenever I meet clients I feel a sense of empathy, as do they, which immediately relaxes everyone and made my job much easier. I also think that within the wider disabled community, being in a wheelchair automatically confers an authority on to someone who is speaking about disability issues - and rightly so.”

Published: 15 March 2018


Focus on Spinal Injury - Spring 2018

  1. The Intro
  2. The Exclusive : Back to the Future
  3. The Expert : In the Spotlight
  4. The Charity : SIA Ride to Transylvania
  5. The Pledge
  6. The Event
  7. Ola's Story

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