Access justice


POSTED: Saturday, November 07, 2009

Hawaii resident Kirby Shaw's dream of being a lawyer might have come to a crashing halt when he severed his spinal cord in a beach acrobatic accident at age 17.

But relatives will tell you Shaw, a paraplegic, is an extraordinary man.

Shaw, who passed his bar exam on the first attempt, was admitted to practice law in Hawaii yesterday at ceremonies at the state Capitol.

“;It's like a new life,”; Shaw said.

Shaw, who also celebrated his 50th birthday yesterday, said he plans to be an advocate for the disabled.

“;I'd like to help people with disabilities gain access to justice,”; he said.

; “;Lots of times, people with disabilities don't have the means, wherewithal or resources and need help. That's a primary interest of mine.”;

Attorney Robert A. Chong, chairman of the Board of Examiners for the Hawaii bar exam, said he was happy to see Shaw admitted to practice law.

“;I really admire him,”; Chong said.

The road to recovery was long for Shaw, who was a senior at Kalaheo High School when the accident occurred in 1977.

He was running on the beach in Kaneohe and doing somersaults when he injured himself.

He required a year of rehabilitation and struggled to learn how to write with his left hand, rather than his right.

Shaw said he went through a dark emotional period for seven years, but he pulled himself out and decided to “;put a smile on his face.”;

“;Thank God I did,”; he said.

He married his wife, Madeleine, in 1990 and eventually earned a master's degree in public administration from the University of Hawaii.

Shaw said his work as a coordinator at the state Disability and Communication Access Board inspired him to help other people with disabilities.

Shaw credits his family and Madeleine for supporting him.

Cousin Joan Shaw said Kirby possesses a positive attitude toward life and people that makes you forget about his disability.

His mother, Joan Shaw, said Kirby does not act like a paraplegic and has been able to cultivate a lot of friends.

“;I'm proud of him,”; she said.