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My disability has never stopped me doing what I wanted in life

My name’s Robert Jacques and I’m 55.

I’m physically disabled due to the aftereffects of an illness that developed after a defective jab that I received when I was four and a half years old. At the time I was living in Africa, and had been part of a mass vaccination campaign.

I’ve had my disability for 50 years so have learned to live with it.

However, my disability has never stopped me doing what I wanted in life. I had an extensive education, did lots of activities in my youth (disabled sports events such as swimming and wheelchair athletics, chess competitions in which I once reached Master status, and I even did some karting) and I started a family.

I’m an engineer with a degree in Telecommunications from the Galileo Institute in the Paris area. I also obtained an MBA in 2006.

I arrived at the bank in September 2007, starting at CIB before quickly moving to the ALM department. I stayed there until February 2014, then joined the Credit Risk Quantitative Modelling team in the Risk department. 

As regards my personality, I try to look on the bright side of life and keep smiling, although I can sometimes react strongly to an injustice. I’m quite lively and ever-curious; I really like learning new stuff.

Not many things scare me today, and I feel ready to overcome any challenges that come up.

Having a disability means you develop above-average adaptability”

In terms of character, I can adapt to any situation. If I can do something myself, I’ll do it, otherwise I’ll ask someone else. Fortunately, I rarely need this help.

At the bank, some moments are more difficult than others (going through the turnstiles, or carrying my tray in the canteen). But the world was not designed for people with a disability.

There is one situation that leaves me exasperated at the bank, though, which is people who don’t have the slightest problem using toilets reserved for individuals with reduced mobility. Sadly, the bank can’t do a lot about people’s behaviour.

On the whole, relations with my co-workers are excellent”

My day-to-day job does not require any particular adjustments to my workstation: a computer, keyboard, mouse and my brain are quite enough.

And, on the whole, relations with my co-workers are excellent. I’ve never felt the slightest sympathy from them, or any pity, and they’ve always treated me like everybody else. I’m convinced that many of them have even forgotten my disability.

Sure, I’ve heard the occasional inappropriate remark, but I think it’s been more clumsy than anything.

The bank has already done a lot and listens to my needs. Obviously there are going to be slip-ups such as with the disabled toilets, which are not necessarily well adapted, and the cobbled link between the car park and entrance to the bank.

After submitting a request, I’m able to use the side doors to get a wheelchair past or move between buildings. So access to the bank has been made easier.

As for the canteen, I came to the bank with walking sticks for years, and was unable to carry my tray. Then Sodexo kindly provided someone to help carry the tray to my seat.

Recently, I decided to use a wheelchair and so I have greater mobility. Unfortunately, I sometimes have to wait for someone from security to open a door adapted to the width of my wheelchair. But this is due to the age of a building that was not designed for this.

On the whole, working at BGL BNP Paribas in a wheelchair or with a disability is not an insurmountable problem: quite the opposite. The room for improvement lies in ensuring that toilets reserved for individuals with reduced mobility are no longer used by people for whom this is not the case.

Written by Robert Jacques - November 2020