Since suffering from polio, Torsten Walther has only limited use of his right hand and foot. Despite this, he has fulfilled his dream and become a real « railroad man ».
Torsten, what is your job at Transdev in Germany?
I work for Transdev Mitteldeutschland GmbH as a customer service representative without operational duties, and my area of operation is the trains of Mitteldeutsche Regiobahn (MRB).
When and how did you start working in public transportation?
I have been working for the MRB since the middle of 2016. I have had a great interest in railroads since I was a child and wanted to work in this industry.
That’s why I also applied several times before to another German transportation company, but unfortunately this was unsuccessful due to my physical limitations. That was very disappointing.
One day, my brother, who is a streetcar and bus driver in Chemnitz, drew my attention to an MRB job advertisement and said, « Just apply. »
At the interview, I then took my chance and made it clear how much I wanted this job. That must have gone down well, because I was called and allowed to see the company physician. He then examined me for fitness – successfully. The next step was a job shadowing day. I completed this and then I was finally able to train as a customer service representative and have enjoyed working in this profession every day since then.
What is the best thing about your job?
The best thing is that I was able to fulfill my dream and work for the railroad. And, of course, dealing with the passengers – helping them, joking with them, or just listening to what’s not going so well. It’s just a normal day at work.
What are some of your daily challenges that you face?
One of the daily challenges is adapting to completely new situations and a wide variety of characters every day. But that’s also what makes the work so enjoyable for me. It’s also important to have a high level of social skills: empathy, being able to calm people down, showing understanding, helping. For example, trains can sometimes be delayed or even canceled, which often annoys passengers.
Regarding my disability, the company physician only insisted that I should make sure to sit down every now and then and take care of myself. So, when I’ve made my rounds of the train, I always sit down. Of course, in such a way that I would still be approachable by the passengers at all times.
What adjustments, if any, have been made to allow you to do your job?
No adjustments were necessary.
Were you aware of the International Day for People with Disabilities (December 3) and why is it important?
No, I did not know about the day. But I think it is good and important. It creates awareness.
What advice would you give to someone with a different disability who wants to pursue a career in public transportation?
Certainly, employability also depends on the type of limitation. Nevertheless, I advise everyone to give it a try. You can always get a no, but you can also get a yes.
If it is your absolute wish, then you should always try it. If I couldn’t have been a customer service representative, I would have tried to start at the customer service center or maybe get a job in administration at the MRB. If an employer really believes in you, he will find solutions and ways to make the job work.