Inspirational young lawyer Wade Brown dies

Alumnus pursued law and other passions despite numerous physical setbacks

Helen Metella - 17 June 2021

Wade Brown, ‘16 LLB, a widely inspiring alumnus who was believed to have been Canada’s only blind and paraplegic lawyer, died on June 12.

Brown, 37, is remembered by those who knew him during his studies at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law as a warm and funny gentle giant who overcame a series of unimaginable obstacles in his life, yet was unfailingly positive.

During Brown’s call to the bar in July 2019, Justice Douglas Mah of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta said: “I can barely contemplate even for one minute how you cope with your challenges, yet you have accepted them and overcome them. Quite frankly, sir, I think you serve as a role model and inspiration for all of us.”

Raised in St. Albert, Brown was born with a visual impairment and had lost his vision completely by the time he was a teenager. Nonetheless, he was an excellent student and earned a bachelor of science degree from the University of Alberta in 2009. Inspired by a friend who was also blind, he then applied to the University of Alberta Faculty of Law.

Working with text-to-speech applications and a system of memorization in which he linked words and terms to colours and images in his mind, he conquered the mountains of reading required and graduated with an LLB in 2016.

"Wade was a student in my Constitutional Law class and I will forever remember him for his relentless positivity and resilience,” said Dean Barbara Barbara Billingsley of the Faculty of Law. "He set a powerful and lasting example for everyone who met him."

In addition to studying, Brown lent his tenor to several Law Show productions. He was also a longtime member of the local choirs Òran and Kokopelli and had previously played tuba for six years with the St. Albert Community Band.

Singer and orator

“He could act and sing and had such a presence,” said Pat Neil of the Faculty of Law’s Career Services, recalling qualities clearly evident in a short clip posted on the Kokopelli Choirs Facebook site.

Adds Tim Young, the Faculty’s exam and online course system administrator: “Wade was always a ray of sunshine, easygoing, easy to talk to, fun, funny and highly intelligent. I'll miss his wonderful spirit and his amazing singing voice and oration. Everyone loved Wade.”

Since Brown did not immediately obtain an articling position upon graduation, he spent a year delivering a regular legal information segment called Blind Justice for Accessible Media Inc.

In 2017, he was offered an articling position with Masuch Law and planned to start in June of that year. Instead, in April he suffered a burst aorta that caused a permanent spinal cord injury, paralyzing him from the chest down.

Yet Brown took up his articling position the next year. Although he dealt with subsequent health struggles, he returned to singing in choirs while in a wheelchair, served on the board of Kokopelli Choirs and became a tutor in English literacy.

Brown died of a sudden ventricular fibrillation. There are no current plans for a memorial service due to the pandemic’s restrictions on sizes of gatherings.