Kirsty Lowther is the Communications Lead and Senior Business Manager in Finance Technology at UBS. She is an avid sports fan and traveller, and she was born with Möbius Syndrome.
What is Möbius Syndrome?
Möbius Syndrome is a congenital neurological condition which chiefly affects the cranial nerves, causing facial paralysis. It is exceptionally rare, with records suggesting it occurs in only 0.002% of births. My own case was only diagnosed by chance by a neurologist who happened to be in the mother & baby clinic when I was 6 weeks old. The cause of the condition is unclear, and research relating to patients’ DNA strings or traumas during pregnancy as possible causes have so far proven inconclusive.
People with Möbius are often described as having a ‘mask-like face’, we are unable to move our eyes, smile or form other facial expressions, and this can sometimes be interpreted as unfriendliness or a lack of intelligence, but this is generally not the case! The condition can also result in many other musculosketal conditions – for me these are club foot and scoliosis.
How has having Möbius affected you outside of work?
Having Möbius has many impacts on my life. On a day-to-day basis, I often get stared at on public transport (though wearing a mask during the pandemic made this a rarer occurrence); and eating and drinking are slightly messier affairs for me than for others – I always make sure I have several napkins to hand!
Before I was accepted into my Primary School, I had to go for a series of tests to prove I didn’t need to attend a special needs school. The tests proved I had a high IQ, and I didn’t really have any issues at school, I just got on with it, and did fairly well academically.
Unfortunately clubbed feet and a competitive nature don’t always go well together, so I am not a gifted sportswoman. I do however love both Pilates and walking, and am hoping to walk Hadrian’s Wall in the next few years.
Do you have any qualifications, did you have any challenges attaining them?
I was born in Scotland but grew up in South Africa, where I obtained an Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) in Accountancy from the Rand Afrikaans University – now known as the university of Johannesburg. I then trained as an articled clerk in a Big 4 audit firm, and qualified as a Charted Accountant.
I didn’t have any issues with my studies and even did a presentation as part of a communications course. Public speaking has always been a little scary for me – because I cannot move my lips, I am always very conscious that my speech may not be as clear as others’.
How has your workplace been able to support you with your condition?
I don’t really need changes to be made to my physical environment at work, but I do seem to have lots of clumsy moments, mainly as a result of my back and foot issues. The onsite medical centre and the support they provide has been fabulous when I have had any problems.
The biggest challenge for me (both within and outside of the workplace) has been to raise awareness in others that having a visible difference does not limit your ability to do your job, or anything else. In fact, my disability has probably pushed me to achieve more than I may have otherwise, I love to take on a challenge.
The Ability Awareness Network, of which I am co-chair, has also given me a platform to share information about my conditions as well as to help others struggling with or wanting information on similar conditions. It is so rewarding to be able to give back.
If you could leave people with one lasting thought, what would it be?
Someone who looks different or expresses themselves in a way which is alternative to the majority does not make them less of a person; it does not diminish their goals, their drive or their passion.