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13.10.2022 By Sena Pottackal (Junior Associate, DEI) and Ishaan Rastogi (Junior Associate, Media Relations)

The Importance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Picture with green background and large black text on the left side stating, “National Disability Employment Awareness Month” all capitalized. On the right side, four blue disability symbols are represented in the picture: Individual in a wheelchair, individual picture with a brain highlighted, two hands utilizing sign language, and individual using a white mobility cane.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) occurs every October to commemorate the contributions of people with disabilities (PWDs) to our nation’s workplaces and economy. In recognition of this important moment in time, two of our employees who identify as PWDs co-authored this blogpost, sharing thoughts on their lived experiences as communicators and bringing continued awareness about inclusion in the workplace.

Question: What is your disability origin story?

Sena: I have Retinitis Pigmentosa. It causes vision loss as the light-sensing tissue in the back of the eye deteriorates. Consequently, I became legally blind at 16. Additionally, I began experiencing chronic vertigo-inducing migraines five years ago.

Ishaan: I was diagnosed with albinism at birth, meaning I lack pigmentation in the skin and eyes. My eyes are sensitive to sunlight, and I am also considered “legally blind” by the state of New Jersey. Since I have lived with albinism my whole life, I would say my origin story centers around coming to terms with who I am and understanding what I am truly capable of, despite the cards I was dealt. I am proud of who I am and what I am doing.

Question: How did your professional journey lead you to Current Global?

Sena: During graduate school, I struggled to secure my first internship because applications were inaccessible. Refusing to abandon my aspirations of becoming a public relations professional, I found an alternative path. I won a New York Women in Communications Incorporated (NYWICI) Scholarship and internship at Weber Shandwick. Then the NYWICI network connected me to Current Global. Our CEO, Virginia Devlin, told me about the agency’s Accessible by Design (ABD) commitment to make communications accessible for PWDS and a few months later I joined the agency as a junior associate and accessibility champion.

Ishaan: I have always been interested in PR as a potential career choice, especially after interning at Weber Shandwick in their consumer practice one summer. I came across a networking event where IPG was hosting a virtual booth and I talked to the representative and spoke about my interests. They told me about Current Global and the “cool things they’re doing in the accessibility marketing space.” A few weeks later, I connected with Current Global, learned about ABD, was offered an internship and later a full-time position. I have been here for about one year and I have enjoyed every minute of it.

Question: Which tools enable you to do your job?

Sena: I rely on a screen reader to participate in digital spaces and a white mobility cane to navigate physical spaces. Since my migraines are provoked by loud sounds, I use earplugs to attend work events.

Ishaan: The Microsoft office suite and operating system supporting dark mode has been extremely beneficial for me. Just being able to read white text against a dark background has saved me so many potential headaches and eyestrain. I also utilize dark mode wherever I can, whether on the Google Chrome browser or my phone. It is honestly a life saver.

Question: What are your thoughts about remote work?

Sena: Remote work is a necessity because it helps me manage my migraines and maintain employment. Specifically, it allows me to eliminate my daily commute, which previously left me dizzy, disoriented and significantly struggling to do my job. Working from home enables me to sustain productivity by creating my own accessible workplace where I can reduce exposure to loud migraine-inducing sounds. Ultimately, remote work empowers me to safeguard my health while producing quality work that advances the accessible communications revolution.

Ishaan: I personally think remote work has given me the flexibility I need to do my best work. Working from home has saved me the commute time I can use to be more productive. I have a desktop setup here that meets my visual needs. I find it easier to learn new skills through a video call versus someone sitting next to me and pointing at the screen. I can zoom in and out of my display and just follow along.

Question: How does working on Accessible by Design make you feel?

Sena: Working on ABD brings me much joy and fulfillment. I am whole-heartedly invested in our commitment because I know our work is propelling the proverbial needle forward for accessibility and disability inclusion.

Ishaan: ABD is a game changing initiative. We are giving industry professionals the tools they need to thrive and turn their workplace into a truly inclusive one, one that caters to everyone’s needs. No one is left behind. It has been great educating professionals, including our colleagues, about workplace inclusivity strategies. It feels good knowing I am not alone and that there are people who want to make essential processes more equitable.

Question: In your experience, does Current Global provide a disability inclusive workplace?

Sena: Yes, it does. Current Global provided me with an inclusive employee experience even before I started. Human resources contacted me, inquired about assistive technology, and acquired them quickly. As a result, I had what I needed to hit the ground running on my first day.

Ishaan: I would say that Current Global has allowed me the flexibility I need to succeed and supported my visual needs. My manager and coworkers are very understanding and receptive if I need anything, such as extended time to complete a task. I think just speaking about my needs openly has been such a huge help by itself. I do not have to “hide” anything from anyone. I do not feel uncomfortable being transparent, even though we as individuals with disabilities are socialized to hide it and not have an open conversation about it.

Question: What is one action you would like employers to take during NDEAM?

Sena: I want employers to proactively employ people with disabilities while providing them with pay equity. PWDs are significantly underpaid in general and underrepresented in our industry. I want companies to aggressively strive to resolve these disparities.

Ishaan: I would like employers to make interviewees who could have a disability feel more welcome and feel like they are in a safe environment. I know through my own journey, I would sometimes count myself out purely because of my disability, nothing else. I know I have the skills and vigor to achieve greatness, but sometimes we doubt ourselves because of our disability, which should never be the case. Our abled counterparts do not necessarily have to think about these things. I would also like employers to have open discussions with their employees on disability inclusivity. Not all disabilities are visual ones, some are unseen, and I think we should let people express who they are, so we can give them the resources to bring 110% to the table every day. We are all equal. We are all the same. We can all do something great, even if it is doing it a little differently.

Now, it is your turn to answer a few questions.

What will you do during NDEAM to empower employees or potential job candidates with disabilities? A great place to start is by making your communications accessible to all people. For example, check job descriptions, social content, and company websites to ensure they are accessible. You can find resources and our ABD pledge at www.accessible-communications.com. By signing the pledge, you will commit to making your content accessible from conception to creation; help bridge the accessible communications gap; and get credit for furthering the accessible communications revolution.

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