Making it right: How our senior writer got a second shot at work and life!

It was the International Day of Disabled Persons last Thursday. 
In an effort to mark that in a meaningful way we asked our Senior Bid + Proposals Writer, Lindy Andrews if she would share her story about being unemployed for eight years due to discrimination. Because Lindy could no longer hold a pen - it was assumed she couldn't write. This is her story.
 

Making it right: How I got a second shot at writing, work and life! By Lindy Andrews
It’s hard to write this without cracking a tear. But this isn’t a sob story, it’s my story, a happy story - and the tears are ones of love and gratitude.

My disability set-in back in 1997. Out of the blue, I became increasingly clumsy. A creative director writing ads for radio, I suddenly found myself at odds with the keyboard – missing keystrokes and making typos. My handwriting evolved into cramped, wavering tracks across a page as my fine motor skills deteriorated. Inexplicably, my fingers began to cross under each other. Before long, I could barely sign my name. Then came the abrupt twisting of my legs as I walked. Yep, I was in all kinds of trouble.

It took two years to get a diagnosis – Dystonia. It would be another 13 years before the reason became apparent – a rare and irreversible reaction to medication.

Fast forward to May 2016, when Tonkin + Taylor’s Communications Manager, Andi Brotherston, got in touch. We’d worked together years before, initially at Energy FM in New Plymouth, and later at Newstalk ZB in Tauranga.

The conversation went a bit like this:
Andi: “Lindy, are you still writing?”
Me: “I use speech recognition software, but I can’t even use a pen to take notes.”
Andi: “Awesome! We're looking for someone who can take incredibly technical engineering stuff and turn it into simple language so that our clients and communities can understand it.”
Me: “But no one will let me use speech recognition in a network….but, but, but….”
Andi: "We have some very clever IT people who don't believe in "buts", leave it with me".

If there’s one thing T+T'ers are good at, it’s busting through barriers. Within a couple of hours, the IT team had built me a portal that allowed me to upload files.

T+T had a new writer (who couldn’t write – the irony of it still makes people grin!).

I never thought I’d find a passion to replace what I had for the dynamic, fast-paced world of radio and news/journalism.

Enter T+T and all things engineering and science. Within weeks I had a whole new lexicon embracing everything from civil and environmental engineering, to ecology, transportation, water infrastructure, liquefaction and earthquake remediation, tsunami early warning systems, climate change adaptation and all shades in-between.  Absolutely awesome! To put it simply, I fell in love with my work.  My then 60-year-old grey matter must have developed a gazillion new cells at record speed.

At T+T, no question is a dumb question. Subject matter expects happily share their knowledge and I thrive on their passion for what they do.

No hands? No problem.

So, here we are at the end of 2020. My life is transformed, thanks to T+T’s willingness to take a punt on an old duck with a disability (diversity and inclusion in one).

Not only have I returned to work, I've been promoted and I've thrived - I'm now a Senior Bid and Proposals Writer in our Winning Work team. I’m chuffed to say that I do pretty well at it (there’s the win/win). I've been working remotely from the get-go, long before it was called "flexible working". I work out of my office from my home near Rotorua with my loyal work colleague and companion dog Gus, and I’m forever grateful.

Disability took my hands, took my career, earning potential and, ultimately, my home.

T+T gave me “virtual” hands, restored my career and earning potential and the bank obviously sees my employment as stable - they've given me a mortgage and I have managed to buy a new home.

Disability still poses its challenges. I’ve just started walking again after 20 months of enforced lockdown due to intractable pain and spasm. The biggest bonus is that the discussions about wheelchairs and mobility scooters have died away (yusss!). During that time, T+T has bent over backwards to make sure that I’m okay.

To anyone else with a disability, or any employer thinking about employing a person with a disability, I’d say “seize the day, seize the opportunity”.

Disability doesn’t define who we are, diminish our work ethic or prevent us from doing a good job. 

Nike said, “just do it”, I urge employers to "find a way to do it".

The rewards on both sides are endless.