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The true meaning of the word “inclusion” is something we learn in our daily lives

My name’s Anne Wenandy, I’m 51 and have been suffering from progressive multiple sclerosis since late 2011. I joined BGL BNP Paribas on 1 October 1997.

I’m now part of the HR Contact Unit at BGL BNP Paribas and help colleagues at the BNP Paribas Group in Luxembourg who are having physical, mental or even professional problems.

“I’ve always reminded myself of what matters to me: to carry on working and be able to keep a degree of mobility”

Somewhat ironically, although it’s something that makes me proud and grateful, it was this organisation that, with the support of my line managers nearly 10 years ago, helped me to remain professionally active with my disease and the progressive visible and invisible disabilities that it engenders.

This freed up some time for the care and treatment that I needed. Admittedly it didn’t happen from one day to the next given that the disabilities appeared gradually, first invisibly, then in some cases visibly. In a little under 10 years, I’ve gone from being completely independent to using a walking stick before ending up in a wheelchair, with all the dependency that that implies. I’ve had to take stock and always remind myself of what matters to me: to carry on working and be able to keep a certain degree of mobility.

“Over time, as my disease progressed, I realised just how essential the environment in which I live and work really is.”

I think that the true meaning of the word “inclusion”, a key part of diversity for me, is something we learn in our daily lives. I still remember when I had to use my wheelchair in the office for the first time.

One day when I was coming out of the lift, I heard a colleague behind me say that it was the first time they had seen someone working at the bank in a wheelchair. That still makes me smile when I think about it. It was in 2016 and we had just moved from HQ, a building called Kronos built in 1994, into one of the new buildings, oKsigen, at the Kirchberg site. As to which of the two buildings has the better facilities for those with reduced mobility, there’s no contest. They’ve gone from almost nothing (just toilets) to the widest possible range of adaptations.

Over time, as my disease progressed, I realised just how essential the environment in which I live and work really is.

While there are still a few obstacles such as cobbles, doors and badge readers, there are always solutions: asking a colleague for help or using an alternative entrance or facility offering greater inclusion.

Written by Anne Wenandy - November 2020