People see my limitation first, but I think in terms of possibilities

25 October 2022

On weekdays, Jessica van Schaik works as a Service Desk Officer at ABN AMRO. On the weekends, she dances the night away with her dance partner Marianne. Her wheelchair and assistance dog Noemie are indispensable to her. Does this make her different from other colleagues within the bank? 'People see my limitation first, but I think in terms of possibilities. Let me try something new and I'll find a way.'

Getting through life in a wheelchair  

'I was born with a muscle disease and go through life in a wheelchair. Looking for a job is different for me than for people without disabilities. I have to prove myself every time, but I don't always get the chance to do that. 10 years ago, I got the opportunity to join ABN AMRO. The bank was looking for a colleague to help visually impaired people make telephone transfers. You could no longer type in the full IBAN numbers – then just new – on your phone. This sounded like an opportunity. After all, I know better than anyone how annoying it is when something doesn't work (anymore).'  

From a small team to hundreds of colleagues 

'I found my first working day at the bank very exciting. Before this, I worked at a small company. At ABN AMRO, I suddenly had hundreds of colleagues. And the first thing people see is my disability. I have to work harder to convince people. Every work day, I would drive to Rotterdam after the traffic jams and look for a parking spot for my bus. But I was there. By now, my colleagues know that I can do the same job. They give me the strength to be more sure of myself and believe in myself. In the beginning, I didn’t dare to take decisions at work. But then colleagues said: "Don't let things get you down, Jessica, there's really no need."' 

Challenging work  

'Within a few years, I moved on to another position. Now I work as a Service Desk Officer, helping customers and colleagues with payment problems. For example, I answer customers on the phone and find out why something isn't working. There's a lot involved in that, especially when there are large sums in play. Together with the team, I answer questions and look into various systems. For now, I haven’t yet finished learning in this department and, above all, I want to make progress. Helping customers is something I really enjoy and finding solutions is challenging.' 

A wheelchair-friendly workplace 

'I am happy with my choice to come work at ABN AMRO. My workplace is adapted to my needs and I work at custom hours. But the office is not 100 per cent wheelchair-friendly. During the refurbishment of the office, I was allowed to give input on accessibility for people with disabilities. One of the things I came up with is, is indicating which doors should be electric. It isn't perfect everywhere yet, but there’s progress. We’re slowly moving towards an accessible workplace for all.' 

Enriching the team 

‘But it isn't just the workplace; it's also about attracting people with disabilities. This is why I regularly engage with HR managers within the bank. Does the team need someone new? Then I challenge them to look at people with disabilities. It can really enrich the team, for example by helping colleagues put things in perspective. Train delays are suddenly a small thing when you compare it to someone who comes to the office every day by adapted transport. I hope to open the eyes of colleagues with this message. The in-house programme B-Able also plays a role in this. I attended a training course on leveraging talent in the workplace there. We shouldn't lose focus on this.’ 

ABN AMRO is also there for people with a disability 

'When I look around at other companies, I notice that ABN AMRO is at the forefront when it comes to diversity and inclusiveness. The subject is discussable and colleagues are open to it. For people with disabilities, however, I think the bar is still too high to apply for a job. Which I find such a waste of talent. The bank is not only there for people without disabilities, ABN AMRO is also there for people with a disability. Visible and invisible. We need to continue fighting to create this social impact. People with disabilities want to work and, in many cases, can participate just as well as anyone else.' 

Do you have a disability and would you like to have a fun and fitting job at ABN AMRO just like Jessica? Then read more about our B-able programme.

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