A New Dawn for Disability at JPMorgan Chase & Co. -- The Office of Disability Inclusion

I know, I know. It's been a while since  I posted here, but it's for a good reason.

A year ago this month, a business colleague and friend, Deb Dagit, an icon in the disability leadership landscape, called and told me about a new position and strategy JP Morgan Chase had posted on their employment website.

At the time, I was with my wife, Maggie, at an outdoor pool in Kingston, Massachusetts, watching my two lovely grand daughters, now ages one and two, in the pool with my daughter. It was a lovely August morning, and as many of the readers of this blog recall, I was recently retired from IBM.

Deb said, "Jim, just take a look at the job description and position, I know you're retired. But it's worth a look, this job is different."

We talked for another five or 10 minutes, and I hesitated, then said, "Ok, I'll give it a read and call you back, I appreciate you flagging this and thinking of me."

I took a deep breath and rolled back to where my grand daughters were playing. I drove my power wheelchair slowly, thinking of the conversation I just had.

It was hard to retire. Most of the people I spoke with about retirement experienced similar feelings and reservations. After 39-years at a company, how do you adjust, transition into a new lifestyle and shake off the old "mindset" of employment?  Working was part of my identity--it's what I did. Early retirement wasn't as easy as I thought it would be.

As I drove closer to the laughter and pleasant chatter of my grand daughters, wife and daughter, I felt better. I confess, however, I was intrigued, with the job.


An interview in Manhattan, New York

After speaking with my family, including my son and daughter, who were supportive and provided good advice and council, my wife reminded me that this work around disability inclusion was my life's passion, since my injury 35 years ago.

At IBM, I was a marketing and communications executive and also served as co-chair for the IBMers with Disabilities Diversity Task Force.

I decided to accept an interview with the Head of Diversity at JPMorgan Chase, Ms. Patricia David. Prior to that meeting I spoke with Deb Dagit, several times, as well as an extremely talented and professional recruiter assigned to me by the firm.

My decision to accept the position and begin work on June 6, 2016, came after many heartfelt discussions with my wife and family, and numerous discussions and interviews with business executives at the firm.

The firm's strategy, as proposed to me, was outstanding, and dove-tailed with my personal beliefs and goals. I believed, and still do, that this opportunity would enable me to take my personal vision of disability inclusion to a new level and, together with the firm, create a new era of disability advancement and achievement. The firm's leadership team and I were together on this concept.


Office of Disability Inclusion at JPMC


What follows, in part, is an excerpt of the internal announcement made at the firm on June 6, 2016.

"....Jim has joined, JPMorgan Chase to lead a new Office of Disability Inclusion. He will work closely with senior leaders across the firm to establish consistent standards and processes to better accommodate employees with disabilities, as well as better support employees who care for disabled family members. 

"This includes collaborating with areas such as Technology, Real Estate, Risk and Human Resources to ensure the firm has the right tools, policies and procedures to promote an inclusive work environment.

"Diversity and inclusion are the cornerstones of JPMorgan Chase's corporate culture. The Office of Disability Inclusion is part of our ongoing commitment to growing a culture of openness, accessibility and meritocracy, where every individual has an opportunity to succeed."

As I begin this new journey I'm using the following "Four A's" as a road-map for a comprehensive global strategy at the firm.  They are:

Attitude: I use the following definition for this word, in the disability space - - the way you think and feel about someone;  feeling or way of thinking that affects "your" behavior or thinking regarding another person.

What do you see when you meet a person with a disability in a business or other setting?  Do you see a potential leader, an intelligent colleague or something else? At what point can you consider working for and respecting a person with a disability as your "boss," "manager," or "executive?"

Accommodations: In the employment context, a reasonable accommodation is defined as any change or adjustment to a job, the work environment, or the way things usually are done that would allow an individual with a disability to apply for a job, perform job functions, or enjoy equal access to benefits available to other individuals in the workplace.

Accommodations have accurately been described as “productivity enhancers” and come in many shapes and forms. [Office of Disability Employment Policy]

Accessibility: Section 255 of the Communications Act requires telecommunications equipment manufacturers and service providers to make their products and services accessible to people with disabilities, if such access is readily achievable.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) documents explain how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. Web "content" generally refers to the information in a web page or web application, including:
  • Natural information such as text, images, and sounds
  • Code or markup that defines structure, presentation, etc.
 Assimilation: This area can be a real game changer - the future mark of a great company committed to inclusiveness of people with disabilities as with other diverse groups. When people with disabilities can assimilate with their able-bodied colleagues, when people talk to a colleague with a disability and don't think about their disability, we will know we've really made a lasting difference.

I've had great support at the firm, I've having fun and living my passion. This is what I've been doing since my last blog. I'll write again soon.



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