Interview: Andre Bekker on life with a disability
We speak to Andre Bekker, Team Leader in the Vodacom Fibre department, about Vodacom's disability programmes.
Vodacom has made it our mission to build an inclusive culture, which includes breaking down barriers for people with disabilities. We recently spoke with Andre Bekker, a Team Leader in the Vodacom Fibre department, about Vodacom's disability programmes.
'In 1997 I was in a motor vehicle accident where I lost the use of both of my legs. While I have always been a positive person, the first few months after the accident were tough as I was very outgoing and loved to do sports like rugby, cricket and surfing. I subsequently joined a wheelchair basketball club in Cape Town and was recently chosen to be in the Western Province Wheelchair Basketball team'.
'After my accident, I was unable to return to my previous job, which created a great deal of uncertainty. I contacted Karen Smit, who had a recruitment agency for disabled people and then submitted my CV to Vodacom where I was successful in getting a call centre position (where I received the Vodacom CEO award in 2004 for being recognised as the best call centre consultant).
'I have now been at Vodacom for 22 years and am currently a team leader within the Fibre department. I enjoy working for Vodacom because as a disabled person I have had many opportunities to grow and develop myself. Working In the technology environment is quite exciting because there are always new things to learn.
What do you wish able-bodied people did more of / less of for people who have a disability – at home, socially and in the workplace?
When an able-bodied person wants to help a disabled person it will be appreciated if they can ask how they can help as opposed to just jumping in, as there are certain ways disabled people do things. Usually, disabled people are very loyal to their employer and they work twice as hard to achieve their goals. I would like for abled bodied people to show the necessary respect for the difficulties we face in our daily life, and not use disabled parking and bathrooms in public places.
Who are some of your role models - who have a disability?
Ernst Van Dyk- Professional Paralympic athlete.
Karen Smit – head of Vodacom’s specific needs department.
Aaron Fotheringham (also called Wheelz) from Nitro Circus
Which technologies have helped you and other people with disabilities, and how?
Using Hand Controls in my car enables me to drive my vehicle which makes me independent. I have a SmartDrive which I attached to my manual wheelchair that makes the chair motorised and also use the SmartDrive Power Assist device that clips easily onto my manual wheelchair that makes it motorised.
My mobile device has become my lifeline as it enables me to access the internet easily and I enjoyed using the calendar function as it reminds me of my daily activities. The Vodacom Specific needs department launched an emergency services app for deaf persons, which enables them to contact various emergency services via a text-based solution (as they are unable to call a call centre and speak to an agent).
Has your office been adapted in any way to assist you? If so, how?
The building where I work in was made accessible to disabled people from the beginning. This means that wheelchair users and people with other physical disabilities can access it easily. A great benefit is that all the doors in the building, including bathroom doors, have been automated, making them easier to use. Even the scanners and the lift buttons are low so that wheelchair users can reach the controls.
Despite being in a wheelchair I continue to be an adventurous person. I have been paragliding from Signal Hill and recently took part in zip lining. I am also a keen motor vehicle enthusiast and I participate in various car events and shows.
Vodacom is an Equal Opportunities employer, which means we actively encourage and welcome people with various disabilities to apply. If you're keen to join our team, note that we are always looking for data scientists. As this is such a rare skill, we’d appreciate your help in filling in the roles. For more information, please email one of our Resourcing Partners on firstname.lastname@example.org.