Remember during graduation you were given a scrolled up fake degree to pose with during those all-important pics?
Well, for legally blind unregistered barrister Haleemah Farooq, who was due to take professional pictures when she was called to the Bar after smashing her exams, the pictures looked a bit different.
The lawyer, 25, from Slough, posed with the cane that helps her get around, instead of the piece of paper. And when she shared the image on Twitter, it quickly went viral.
Farooq, currently working for the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner as a casework officer before she secures pupillage (like a training contract), expressed what the cane meant to her.
She wrote: “This picture speaks volumes to me as a British Pakistani, blind Muslim woman. When taking the professional pictures at my Call ceremony I ensured that my white cane was in the photo because it is significant to my journey as a legally blind barrister.”
Since the image went viral, amassing more than 25,000 likes on Twitter, Farooq has even personalised her cane, adding pink florals to the item.
She tells HuffPost: “It’s tradition to hold the little fake degree thing and I chose not to do that in my individual picture, instead I held my white cane (it’s now pink! I got it personalised recently but it’s technically still called a white cane).
“It meant a lot to me to hold my cane.”
Farooq struggled with the cane at first, as someone who is partially sighted, and was reluctant to use it. But recently, she began using it full-time and it’s revolutionised her life.
“I have always been a confident person but have only recently started to use my white cane full time,” she added.
“Blind people use their cane for two reasons, identification or mobility. Although I would use my cane here and there, I was never confident enough to use it maybe because I never saw others who looked liked me growing up, being a British Pakistani blind hijabi and I was very conscious of the looks I used to get.
“But I soon learned that my cane is my eyes, my friend, my aid and it helps me on so many levels. So I started using my cane full time and given that it’s empowered me beyond belief I thought it only right to let it shine with me in my professional photos.”
For Farooq, being a Pakistani woman who wears a hijab and is now on her way to becoming a licensed barrister (once she secures pupilage), the moment is big for her for various reasons.
“I haven’t seen much representation from others like me, but I don’t mind being the first. I just hope that I can inspire other parents who think a disabled child can’t achieve things,” she says.
“Though, I don’t think I was doing anything amazing, I just like documenting my life so I’m happy it touched others.”