We sat down with Tony Shepherd to talk about what business life is like, living with Muscular Dystrophy.

Who are you and what do you do

I’m Tony, and I’m a Principal Business Architect at BT. I joined BT in 2004 into Field Services and I now work in Group Technology. Before this I worked for NatWest Bank where I did my MBA, then Dell Computers and Tele West. 

My role involves introducing a Business Architecture way of working, which essentially means ensuring resources allocated to delivering business requirements are focussed on the right business areas and are delivering the maximum value for each pound being spent. I have a disability called Muscular Dystrophy which essentially means I have substantial wasting of my muscles in my legs and hands, and have to wear leg supports to walk around.  

What is it like living with muscular dystrophy?

For me I think it’s challenging and frustrating but not impossible; this stems from not being able to do the things as easily as I used to. I’m unable to pick something up from the floor or kitchen side, I can’t change a light bulb, fix a screw in a wall, lift a pot out from the oven and so on, and it’s frustrating to look at these things and not be able to just do them. However, it really drives me to find different ways of operating given the restrictions, and it’s incredibly motivating when I do! Of course I have to be very careful with movement around the house otherwise accidents can happen, but sometimes taking time and slowing down isn’t such a bad thing. 

There is always a glass half full angle to take if you look for it! Having a disability (in my experience) really makes you focus on the things you can do and have going on in your life, and when you do, you realise that things are pretty good!

Do you feel supported by BT? If so, how?

Absolutely – I have to say that I feel very supported in a number of ways!

For me personally there are 2 main areas of focus, my total lack of strength in my hands and legs. To help, BT have given me an adapted mouse to use with my laptop as I have no strength to grip a normal mouse, I have a light touch keyboard which is much easier to use, and I have access to Dragon voice activated software for when my hands are tired. 

In terms of getting around, I am allowed to use taxis when in London, I have a lightweight laptop if I have to travel, and can sometimes stay overnight if I am very fatigued. Like every organisation there is always more to do, however the culture I have experienced has been incredibly supportive and understanding of me and my personal needs.

What is the best advice you've ever received?

Three words – “Ask for help”. It’s always difficult and frightening to hold your hand up and say ‘I need some help here’. No one likes to admit they can’t do something, particularly at work. However if you are as lucky as I am to have a supportive management structure, once you take that initial step and feel supported you can take the next one and talk a little more and build from there.

What would be your advice to potential candidates, looking to apply to BT, living with disabilities?

Simple – apply! People with a disability develop a very unique set of skills, experiences and understanding that can enhance the products and services of a company such as BT. People with disabilities are confronted with many challenges on a daily basis so they are used to finding solutions which require flexibility, creativity and an open mind, and this creative way of thinking and handling challenges is a skill I believe is of benefit to the whole of BT.

I also believe potential candidates can benefit personally from working for BT. It’s a massive organisation offering opportunities to work in a wide range of disciplines. I’m not certain that people living with a disability would immediately think of applying to BT, however I would recommend very strongly that they consider the strengths and skills they have and consider a career here. 

Finally, given the products BT deliver it’s important to remember that you can help to influence and design products and services which are more accessible to people living with a disability from inside the company!

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