Paul’s temporary disability led to campaign

Swindon Advertiser: Paul McAllister pictured starting off a wheelchair exercise around Nationwide’s headquarters in Swindon. From left, in the wheelchairs,are Stewart Elliott, Jamilia Parry, Aubrey Mvula, Tom Heinz, Gerry Coppell and Sean McCallion Paul McAllister pictured starting off a wheelchair exercise around Nationwide’s headquarters in Swindon. From left, in the wheelchairs,are Stewart Elliott, Jamilia Parry, Aubrey Mvula, Tom Heinz, Gerry Coppell and Sean McCallion

WHEN Nationwide’s Paul McAllister visited his doctor after feeling unwell, little did he know that weeks later he would be in a wheelchair.

The head of customer operations was struck down with double pneumonia in February, which saw him in hospital for nine days.

He quickly began to recover and, keen to get back to work, returned to Nationwide in a wheelchair only six weeks later.

Although in August he began to walk unaided again, the experience gave him a perspective on what the workplace can be like for his disabled colleagues.

He became the executive sponsor of the disability network at Nationwide and yesterday held an event in the atrium of Nationwide House to mark International Day for People with Disability and raise awareness of disability in the workplace.

Paul, 43, said: “I don’t feel I speak for disabled people because I never had that sense it would be for life.

“It was a very humbling experience. I never felt I got treated any differently for it. Some people would deal with it by saying something, others would deal with it by not saying anything.

“I have a wife and a daughter so I was more worried about them than about myself.”

Paul is keen to raise awareness of disability in the workplace and create a better working environment.

He said: “I want to ensure there is a level playing field for disabled people across the organisation, whether that is better access, opportunities or anything else.”

To mark International Day of People with Disability, the building society’s 70,000 employees had an opportunity to ask questions anonymously in an Online Talkback session, which were answered by internal and external experts.

Paul said: “We were overwhelmed by the number of questions not just from people with disabilities but also from their managers. A lot of the questions were also not about physical disabilities but about mental ones as well, particularly like autism.

“It’s just about raising awareness and I think Nationwide is really good at providing for all their employees.”

There was also a wheelchair challenge, where employees had a chance to have a go using a wheelchair to have a taste of what it might be like.

There were also stalls held by many other disability charities.

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