MANCHESTER DIARY
Sue refusing to let MS slow her down

A LIVERPOOL woman who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis more than 20 years ago is determined to continue to live life to the full.

Sue Heller has raised thousands of pounds for the MS Society by undertaking various activities - including climbing Mount Snowdon in her wheelchair.

She has worked at the Liverpool office of Quill Pinpoint, a software and outsourced service supplier, for 25 years.

Such has been the firm's help to Sue since she was diagnosed, she nominated them for the MS Society's Employer of the Year - which the company won.

Sue, a member of Liverpool's Childwall Hebrew Congregation, credits her long-standing service to Quill's readiness to accommodate her changing MS symptoms to the best of its ability.

"I have been very lucky to have worked for an employer who recognises that my disability doesn't mean the end of my working life.

"Throughout my career, Quill has always adapted to my needs.

"These awards have given me the chance to show my appreciation to Quill for its ongoing support."

The company, whose head office is in Manchester, was set up in 1978 by Blackpool-born Tony Landes.

Tony, who lives in Bowdon, Cheshire, with wife Sue, is a member of the Menorah Synagogue (Cheshire Reform Congregation).

The 67-year-old said: "It is not difficult to cater for individuals with MS or other conditions in the workplace. Often it's the small things that count.

"It could be something as seemingly trivial as relocating certain workstations closer to the disabled toilets or assigning colleagues to assist with evacuation during emergency situations.

"Employers have a responsibility to try to understand symptoms and be as open-minded as possible about potential adjustments to make working life more manageable for those concerned.

"If employers value their employees, then it should come naturally. A bit of empathy and goodwill goes a long way."

Quill has also raised more than 13,000 for the MS Society.

Two of its recent charity events involved trekking up Mount Snowdon while carrying Sue in her wheelchair and last year 24 members of staff completed the 23-mile Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge.

On another occasion, Sue zip-wired 250 metres from the Imperial War Museum, Salford, to The Lowry Theatere across the Manchester Ship Canal.

Sue was diagnosed with MS when she was 33.

She originally worked for Quill as a departmental manager, but more recently downsized to a part-time bookkeeper.

"I don't believe in sitting around and feeling sorry for myself," Sue explained.

"My friends and I have adapted to the changes which have happened.

"Since I stopped walking, they look around for places for us to go where there aren't any steps."

Quill was invited by the All Party Parliamentary Group for MS, a formal group of MPs and peers with an interest in MS and policy issues which affect the MS community, to attend a Westminster review of employment support policies.

During the session, Sue presented her argument on how to balance an MS diagnosis with a career.

Tony and Quill's human resources manager Sarah Duggan discussed the adjustments made to the physical environment, Sue's contractual details and company culture.

Evidence gathered in the review - and from two previous sessions - will form the basis of a report to be launched in the autumn.

Its ultimate aim is to reform policies to enable people with MS to access and remain in employment.



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