Leading Companies Embrace Diversity and Foster Inclusion by Encouraging Employees to Self-Identify

The Conference Board’s 2014 research report: Do Ask, Do Tell: Encouraging Employees with Disabilities to Self-Identify outlines what companies are doing and can do to build a disability-inclusive culture and encourage employees with disabilities to self-identify. Under the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, organizations with federal government contracts and their subcontractors are required to invite applicants (at pre-offer and post-offer) and employees (every five years) to self-identify as individuals with disabilities. Organizations must report their number of applicants and active employees with disabilities annually as a means to measure the effectiveness of their outreach and recruitment efforts. Regardless of OFCCP status, many organizations understand the intrinsic value of creating inclusive environments and encouraging self-identification (self-ID) to better understand and support their existing and future employee population. Ernst & Young (EY), Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare (HPHC), and Raytheon are three such employers doing tremendous work in this area.

Lori Golden headshot

Massachusetts Business Leadership Network (MABLN) members, EY, HPHC and Raytheon are all committed to letting their employees know that if their organization knows more about their people, they are better able to support their people…and in turn, their people are better able to support their customers. All advise that a self-ID campaign is not a standalone effort. Priority must first be given to establishing an inclusive environment where the safety and security of employee’s personal information is of utmost concern. “It must be clearly supported that there is an organizational commitment to enable people of all abilities to do their best work” states Lori Golden, EY’s Abilities Strategy Leader. To do this, Lori suggests employers first build a foundation of trust before asking employees to self-ID:

  • Project an abilities-inclusive culture via images, messaging, sharing success stories and making constant connections to existing company efforts.
  • Educate broadly and continually through implementing targeted trainings, providing general awareness via the company’s intranet, social media outlets and e-mail, offering abundant resources in variety of forms, and conducting community outreach.

These three employers agree – once an inclusive stage has been set, a successful self-ID campaign is more likely. EYs self-ID efforts are driven by three key principles and can be applied in any scale:

  1. Holistic – adopt a multi-dimensional approach that works across diversity dimensions to make disability mainstream
  2. Integrated – leverage existing processes and company initiatives
  3. Positive – emphasis of self-ID stays off compliance, instead the focus is on beneficial aspects to employees

Keith Marion headshot

Keith Marion, Inclusion Program Manager at HPHC stresses the importance of collaborative communication before, during and after a self-ID campaign. HPHC implemented an internal chat group encouraging employees to ask questions that often stemmed from employee’s concern around the use of personal information. As a result, they implemented significant restrictions around the access of this confidential information and housed the data outside of the Human Resources department. In addition, HPHC has integrated self-ID surveys in the application process, new-hire correspondence, employee onboarding resources and beyond. As a result of such robust communication and data collection throughout an employee’s life-cycle, HPHC learned they had a high percentage of employees reporting sight-related disabilities and were able to quickly focus on sight-related supports in their workplace. “Focusing not only on what we communicate, but how we communicate has made a positive impact,” shares Keith, “We ask employees to take an innovative opportunity to voluntarily declare their difference to make us better”.

Karen Balcom headshot

Karen Balcom, Sr. Manager, Enterprise Talent Acquisition at Raytheon suggests engaging employees at all levels of theorganization for the broadest self-ID campaign reach. Raytheon welcomed the support of their disability focused employee resource group (ERG). They created video vignettes that showcase the executive sponsors of their ERG explaining self-ID, where to self-ID and how to request accommodations if required. This cross functional and multi-level approach was positively received by employees. Karen looks forward to a “self-ID campaign no longer being a campaign, but a cultural norm.”

Though at different stages in their self-ID journey, EY, HPHC and Raytheon have made tremendous strides. All agree there is still work to be done, but the learnings about their employee base has not only bettered their inclusive culture, but improved their company’s overall acumen.


To join in the discussion with EY, HPHC and Raytheon around Self-ID and other topics of critical importance to increasing disability inclusion in your workplace, contact us to become a Sponsor of Worth Without Limits and member of the MABLN!

Massachusetts Office on Disability “Breaking Barriers” Art Exhibit

The Massachusetts Office on Disability is a state agency with the mission of ensuring full and equal participation in all aspects of life by persons with disabilities. In early 2017, MOD created a new public outreach effort, that is, we asked the public to submit original artwork that depicts people with disabilities “Breaking Barriers.”  Much of our agency’s work focuses on providing technical assistance to the public on various disability-related laws and regulations. Therefore, one purpose of the call for art was to ensure that we stay in touch with the human aspect of the agency’s mission: dignity and self-determination for all people with disabilities.

The public response to the call for art was very positive; we received about one hundred amazing entries from talented individuals across the Commonwealth!  We then assembled a jury of experts to determine which pieces would best reflect the theme of “Breaking Barriers.”  The jury was comprised of Pops Peterson, Artist in Residence of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination; Marian Brown, Founding Executive Director of Arts Connect International; David D’Arcangelo, Director of MOD; Dan Serig, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs of Massachusetts College of Art & Design; and Charles J. Washburn, former Vice President & COO of VSA Massachusetts.



The Breaking Barriers exhibit ran from November 14th through November 24th at the fourth floor display area of the Massachusetts State House. An opening reception was held with over one hundred guests in attendance including artists, their friends and families, Massachusetts legislators, and other supporters. Each artist was presented with a gubernatorial citation acknowledging his or her contribution.

“Celebrating the tremendous and varied talent of individuals with disabilities was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon”, shares Work Without Limits Director and exhibit guest, Kathy Petkauskos. “Both the artists and artwork represented amazing diversity. Witnessing the state Senators and Representatives recognize and present citations to the artists from their districts was certainly a highlight! I applaud MOD for taking the time and effort to showcase these artists, and I hope that this type of effort and event will continue in the years to come.”


By participating in the call for art, all artists shared their talent to help MOD to raise awareness of how persons with disabilities break barriers and overcome stigma. With about 1,500 employees and approximately 4,000 visitors passing through the State House daily, the exhibition surely made an impact.


Visit gallery with audio description of the artwork

Photos: Deb Luchini 

State Street Intern Utilizes Summer Program to Prepare for College and Beyond

When I first started at State Street, I didn’t know what to expect. I went to orientation in early July but felt it went by very quickly, and I left feeling puzzled. I managed to jot down a few notes, but I personally felt it wasn’t enough. I started my first week at 100 Summer Street, met my manager in the lobby, and she very quickly helped me get settled. I remember trying to set up my password by phone. The main issue was that I have a hearing loss, so I kept mishearing the password the person was trying to give me.  I had to take off my hearing aids and press my ear against the speakers. My manager was nice to help me on the phone with getting this set up.

I then had a few meetings and tasks assigned to me, which I liked because I could hear my co-workers more clearly. I prefer speaking to others in-person rather than on the phone, which sounds very quiet and muffled to me. I liked the team; they were all very nice and gave me a quick summary of my first meeting so I would understand the overall theme.

During my 2nd week, I got transferred to 1 Lincoln Street and met my new team, with Richard Curtis as my manager. I felt more comfortable in my new role, which didn’t involve speaking on the phone as a requirement. Most of my tasks revolved around using Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook.  Office Communicator is a cool feature which I used to communicate with my team. I also used Internet Explorer to access the Private Industry Council (PIC) website, where I would upload pictures of activities from Fridays, which is when the Interns get to do different things such as volunteer at local nonprofit organizations, attend workshops on improving presentation skills, and receive tips on doing well at work. Some of the quizzes and games on Fridays were very challenging; a few lucky winners got a prize!

While at State Street, I learned a lot about myself and my strengths and weaknesses, as well as what it’s like to work in an office. I also learned many skills working on a Windows computer, since I’m a Mac user. I hope the skills I learned at State Street will help me this fall in 12th grade at Boston Arts Academy and in the future at college and in my career.


For more information on the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC)

Visit Here



As the final blog in our State Street intern series, we invite you to read each story hereherehere, and here

Image of Bo Tanner in her wheelchair in front of pool where she coaches

Disability Inclusive Health and Wellness Programs

The beginning of the year is an extremely popular time for focusing on health and wellness. Many of us are making new year’s resolutions that include better diets and more exercise. Likewise, many companies kick off a new calendar year with fun challenges and competitions that promote healthy lifestyles among their workforce’s.

When planning your company’s Health and Wellness program, you will want to make sure that you are being truly inclusive of all your employees. It may be easier than you think to accommodate and include your employees with disabilities in wellness programs and other related activities. Here are some steps you can take to ensure the wellness program your company is planning is accessible for all:

  1. Planning: Include people with disabilities on the planning committee and/or have them working closely with the coordinator. By incorporating people of all abilities, there is a very high chance that everyone will feel included in working towards a healthier lifestyle. If your company has a disability Employee Resource Group (ERG), this could be a great opportunity to leverage and partner with that particular ERG.Man in wheelchair in front of elevator with sign that says 'Today Is the Day we take the stairs
  2. Marketing: Ensure all marketing materials represent all people. By including different types of people that may be employed at a company, including people with apparent disabilities, there is no question as to who can participate. It’s equally important that these materials are accessible to everyone, creating formats such as audio, picture-based, large print and accessible electronic.
  3. Incentives: Another point to consider is including incentives, such as gift cards, prizes, and event tickets, that are geared toward people with a variety of abilities. The opportunity to sky dive, for example, may not be for everyone but a Visa card or gift certificate to a restaurant will most likely appeal to all.
  4. Accessibility: Ensuring your place of business, where the wellness program is taking place, is accessible is another thing to think about and ensure. These two assessments, Inclusion Worksite Wellness and Community Health Inclusion Index, can be extremely helpful in ensuring a wellness program, building, event, and all other business related happenings are accessible.

Other areas to consider in achieving an accessible wellness program are:

  • Providing a map of accessible routes to increase movement
  • Implementing a smoke-free work environment
  • Including healthy options in accessible vending machines
  • Change a ‘Step Challenge’ to a ‘Movement Challenge’ by using pedometers to track movement instead of steps and having participants report on percentage increases instead of number of steps

Programs can be broader than simply a stair or step challenge, making wellness accessible to all.

Employee health is a great goal for companies to implement, and a fun way to start the New Year. When everyone is involved it will lead to a happier and healthier work environment!

If you want to learn more about how Work Without Limits can help
your company become more inclusive and diverse, please contact us today.