Sunday, January 19, 2014

Disability is in the Eyes of the Beholder



I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written, but it has been extremely busy since I last posted here. Work was busy, but not unfruitful. 

One project I finished last December was a video for IBM managers worldwide called: “Disability is in the Eyes of the Beholder,” which IBM’s diversity organization asked me to do. This video and other material is being used to help inform managers about IBM’s diversity policies and strategies as it applies to people with disabilities.

Similar education and awareness material is provided throughout every business year on any number of topics including equal opportunity, sexual harassment and policies regarding equity in the workplace as it applies to women, LGBT and other constituency members.

One of my colleagues on this project wrote the following introduction to the video, which I’d like to share with you.

In December 2012, my now three-year-old son was diagnosed with a rare disease – 1 in 100,000 people – Hunter Syndrome. Because of his disease, he had chronic ear infections which led to speech delays. I was recently talking to his new speech therapist after his session and giving her a little background on his disease – no cognitive involvement yet, he is getting weekly enzyme replacement therapy for the enzyme he is missing, treat him like you would any other child, etc. She listened patiently, and then patted my son on the head and said, “Okay. I’ll see you next time, Hunter.”

"His name is Cole," I said. "He has Hunter Syndrome. He is not his disease."

“I tell you this story,” my colleague wrote, “not to shame the therapist, but to ask you to pause - - take a step back and reflect. As an IBM manager, who do you see when you look at a person with a disability? Do you see the person with ability, talent, dreams and ambitions? Or, do you see just the disability or worse, more work for yourself?

About the video
The video was produced to make viewers uncomfortable as they get a front row look at what some people with disabilities experience during a job interview, if they ever get one.  In addition, the video:
·         Points out unacceptable behavior
·         Reveals “subliminal” bias
·         Depicts an attitude of indifference by the person conducting the interview

As you watch the video, keep in mind that if you or companies you do business with aren’t hiring the most qualified person for a job, competitors will.

Making assumptions about someone’s ability based on lack of information, incorrect assumptions or bias can become a competitive disadvantage.  As Deidre’s character says so well in the video, “Nothing will hold us back except the fears, biases, and misconceptions of people. All I ask is that you judge my credentials and intellectual capital as you would anyone else."

The video has been posted on YouTube, as a public service. I hope you can find some use for it in the work you do or causes you support.  Let’s get qualified people with disabilities hired!

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