Almost 0.1 per cent of Australia’s population have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. It’s a progressive disease of the nervous system, of which there is no cure… and I’m one of those 0.1 per centers.
Until recently, I was in denial about my diagnosis. I spent a year fighting it. Before that, I had problems with my legs and found myself always tired; it makes you extremely fatigued. I was working very hard during the week and spent my weekends trying to recover, which began to impact everything.
What changed? What helped me accept and share this experience? I had to make a decision about how to better manage my energy. I also realised that others with disabilities, whether you can see them or not, are reluctant to talk about their experiences (no surprises there – I was one of them!).
Don’t get me wrong – this has been a difficult journey for me. I moved to a wheelchair recently and that was a big deal. I wondered, ‘What will people think? Will people treat me differently?’ I can remember feeling extremely anxious. I didn’t want to be treated any different, but somehow had to be in order to function at my best and be included.
Thankfully, I’ve had a relatively positive experience in managing my MS and my career.
Last year, we launched a Disability and Accessibility Champion Group with representatives from our Executive and HR teams. I’m proud to be the Telstra Retail TET (Telstra Executive Team) Champion for Disability and Accessibility. The role represents the opportunity to promote disability, accessibility and inclusion across Telstra. This includes the use of technology to enhance lives, a passion of mine and game-changer for many.
I love the use of technology at home. I firmly believe Telstra can deliver technology that change peoples lives – be it automation or voice recognition. There is a whole technology element that is actually quite simple, but makes a huge difference in an individual’s independence and quality of life.
I’ll give you a small example of a task most take for granted: being in a wheelchair and trying to close your roller-blinds is difficult, if not downright dangerous! Home automation to me is a slam dunk. It means I can close those blinds without much difficulty, using a control or a smartphone. This idea is not new and there are solutions already in market for those of you who already love automation.
With my home automation system, I have a connected home with cameras, triggers and sensors – all linked to my smartphone. There’s also the intercom system – have you ever tried getting downstairs in a wheelchair quickly to answer the door? I wouldn’t recommend it!
As an employer, Telstra wants to contribute positively to the lives of people with a disability. I’m able to work flexibly from home when required. With our All Roles Flex initiative, flexibility is considered the starting point for all roles, both at the recruitment stage and for current employees. We’re the first large corporate in Australia to implement such an initiative. Technology is a big part of All Roles Flex enabling our people to decide how, when and where work gets done. Our Disability Action Plan includes information on disability and accessibility, reinforcing our commitment as a company.
We’ve also launched three new initiatives recently, including a new portal on Telstra.com, allowing you to identify which mobile device in the Telstra range will best suit your particular needs.
Our purpose to create a brilliant connected future for everyone includes breaking down barriers and facing challenges head-on. It means always pushing for innovation in this space, because we’re not there yet.
And I’m all for it – bring it on!