HP is taking great steps to engage their employee community to create a diverse and inclusive community. On May 23, 2017, HP’s Boise DisAbility Business Impact Network, hosted a disability etiquette training. To help with the training the Northwest ADA Center-Idaho and the State Independent Living Council organized a group of individuals with disabilities to participate in role plays, demonstrating positive ways to communicate and interact.
The training was a follow up from HP’s October 2016 Disability Awareness Event. Michael Turner, the Chairperson of the HP Boise DisAbility Business Impact Network expresses the group members’ excitement, “We were overwhelmed with the 400 HP employees attending the event.”
Through 90 minutes of role play and conversation with individuals who are blind, have developmental disabilities, are deaf or hard of hearing, and people with physical/invisible disabilities, HP employees learned that we all want the same thing: decency and respect. The welcoming environment created by the Boise DisAbility Business Impact Network, and the willingness of the larger audience to ask hard questions and get real life answers, was impressive.
Dana Gover, Northwest ADA Center-Idaho and Mel Leviton from the State Independent Living Council (SILC) were the event leaders, with assistance from Ray Lockary who is hard of hearing, Max Hudson an individual who has a developmental disability and Dana Ard an individual who is blind and Jerry Riener from the SILC who provided support and logistics for the team. Members of the HP Boise DisAbility Business Impact Network also assisted in the exercises. Additionally, Bill Avey, General Manager & Global Head, Personal Systems Services served as the master of ceremonies. and host, bringing in his personal experience with a temporary disability to engage the audience.
The feedback from the attendees was outstanding! Many “thank you’s” were exchanged after the event! Subsequently, several comments lauded the personality and style of the leaders and reflected on how this will change their day-to-day interactions with the confidence of knowing how to engage others. Additionally, after the session, several members expressed the desire for more in-depth training.
Michael adds, “The objective of the activity was absolutely met: Broadening the message of diversity and inclusion to a large representation of employees, increasing awareness on how to create a diverse and inclusive culture for people with disabilities.”
Dana Gover says, “This type of training is important, as we find ourselves in situations where we don’t know what to say or do. We may meet someone who moves or acts differently, and wonder how we should react. When interacting with people with disabilities, it’s important to remember that we are people first. We want to be appreciated, respected, and productive.”
Civil rights laws have helped people with disabilities pursue employment, recreation, and educational opportunities in the mainstream of community life. As a result, attitudes toward people with disabilities have also begun to change. This is a start toward creating a truly integrated society; one in which people of all abilities live and work together.
The use of negative words can create incorrect perceptions of people with disabilities. Such negative attitudes are often the most difficult barriers for people with disabilities to overcome. Even the word “handicap” is considered unacceptable by most people with disabilities because of the word’s origin. “Handicap” is derived from “cap in hand,” a phrase associated with beggars.
When describing a person with a disability, refer to the person first. Rather than saying or writing “blind man” or “afflicted with blindness” refer to “a person with visual impairment” or “a person who is blind.” This also applies when you are describing a group of people with disabilities. Do not label a group of individuals as “the disabled,” which puts the focus on their disabilities. “People with disabilities” or “individuals who use wheelchairs” places people first.
Michael states, “We are on a great path at HP, starting with overall awareness and now etiquette training. In addition to growing our culture of diversity and inclusion for people with disabilities, we look forward to the results from engaging with the community, in terms of ongoing innovation in products and services, as well as identifying ways that we can attract and retain a diverse workforce.”