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Network Rail: Katie's Story

Category: disability

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Network Rail celebrates disability week

Last week (Monday 16 – Friday 20 July), colleagues across Network Rail marked Disability Week with a series of events to raise awareness of CanDo’s work to support colleagues with disabilities.

CanDo is the youngest and one of the fastest growing colleague-led networks at Network Rail. This year, internal engagement with CanDo is up 1,400 per cent and membership has tripled, with more than 400 colleagues having signed up to help make the network a more welcoming place for people with disabilities.

‘Everything changed’

Katie Caswell, Transformation Project Management Office, Group Transformation, is CanDo’s co-chair. Katie said: “My life was turned upside down more than 20 years ago, when I suffered my first epileptic fit. I was enjoying life to the full – I’d achieved a first-class degree, Master of Business Administration (MBA) and qualified as a chartered accountant. Until that day, I had no concept at all as to what epilepsy was or what it could mean to be disabled.

“Everything changed after that. I was made redundant from my job at the time, having been told my disability impairments were “inappropriate” and divorced from my husband once he realised that I would no longer be able to have children. It has been a difficult 20 years – and although I had the support of my friends and family, there was never a disability network in place at the organisations I worked, for me to be my authentic self at work.”

Katie’s confidence

Katie added: “At first, being disabled really knocks your confidence. Once I learned to cope with the impact and to have the strength to realise that if people can’t recognise me as ‘me’, it is their problem and not mine, I became a much stronger person.”

Katie, who joined Network Rail five years ago, got involved with CanDo to help other people with disabilities maintain their own confidence. Katie added: “I got involved because I know what it feels like to lack disability confidence and I don’t want others to feel that way.

“I want to help Network Rail inspire confidence and enable colleagues who experience disability to be able to bring their true selves to work.”

Support network

CanDo holds regular events for its members, as well as anyone else interested in finding out more about disability. The CanDo newsletter features colleague stories, a packed events schedule and examples of changes that the network has helped bring about across the business, such as a push for reasonable adjustments awareness. CanDo also helps signpost colleagues struggling with any aspect of their disability to the support and guidance available inside and outside of Network Rail. 

Katie, who has recently returned to work following brain surgery to help relieve the causes of her epileptic fits, said: “Being able to share my passion among people with disabilities means I’m now happier – life is full again and more successful.

“With CanDo, we try to raise awareness with events like Everyone Week and the network has had great support from colleagues across the Network Rail functions, such as Phil Hufton, CanDo executive sponsor and Helen Samuels, CanDo Infrastructure Projects sponsor.”

Members of CanDo are invited to choose their level of involvement in the network, and membership details are not shared with the business.  

WheelPower

CanDo and a team from Network Rail’s Accelerated Leaders Programme hosted WheelPower – the wheelchair sport charity – at Waterloo station. The event, on Monday 16 and Tuesday 17 July, was part of Waterloo’s 170th birthday celebrations and marked the 70th anniversary of wheelchair sport at WheelPower’s Stoke Mandeville stadium, the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement.

The CanDo network leadership team was on-hand to talk to colleagues and members of the public about being disability confident, and were joined by Network Rail leaders, members of Parliament and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson”

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