An accessible and inclusive workplace is one where we support, respect and value each other. With disabilities not always being visible, we invited two of our non-visibly disabled colleagues to help dispel myths and misconceptions around the topic. Here, they explain how Nationwide supported them in their work.

Natasja’s story

Natasja is a Business Support Manager who has fibromyalgia. This condition causes widespread and chronic pain, as well as a heightened response to pressure.

“When I started at Nationwide, I looked for networks to join to help support others with their disabilities and to raise awareness, so I could give back some of the support I’d been given. I’d learnt not to be scared and to get out there and be open. I became part of the disability employee network group, Enable. It was after volunteering for filming for “The Big Event” that I was approached about being one of the hosts for the disability e-Learning.”

To help manage her pain, she works two days a week from home and has specialist equipment, including a dictation package called Dragon . This means she doesn’t have to type when it’s too painful and can use it anywhere – whether at home or in the office during meetings.

Matthew’s story

Matthew Hallam, a District Manager, has a different kind of non-visible disability: dyslexia. He first got involved with raising awareness when the ED&I champion asked him to share his story. Put simply, Matthew's dyslexia means he’s very strong in some areas and less capable in others.

“I struggled with basic phonics and couldn’t hear the pronunciation of various sounds that a five-year-old would be able to cope with. It highlighted there were some problems with my memory, too.”

Equipped with an iPad and remote keyboard, he’s had the Dragon dictation software installed too. He’s been provided with additional colleague support for the recruitment process – a key part of his job as District Manager – which he says has made a huge difference.

The power of raising awareness

Equipping people so they better understand disability in all its forms is a key step towards creating a more inclusive and accessible workplace.

“Anyone can become disabled at any point of their life and may need support. It was something that happened to me 15 years ago,” says Natasja.

“It’s not always obvious that people have disabilities,” says Matthew.

This means even the most enlightened among us can unwittingly have the wrong attitude towards colleagues. “So it’s important to have an open mind, and give people the confidence to talk openly about it. It’s not taboo anymore, and at Nationwide we are good at supporting people.”

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