Our people share their personal perspectives on creating an inclusive future for people with disabilities.
Our people share their personal perspectives on creating an inclusive future.
Shane was in a snowboarding accident in December 2014, crushing his spinal cord, and he ultimately became a paraplegic, paralyzed from the chest down. Eight months later, after countless hours of therapy and a new found appreciation for “all things life”, he found himself ready to take the plunge in going back to work…this time in a wheelchair. Shane describes his experience of life at KPMG after his accident and how he’s raised awareness, provided support for others and shared his perspective.
“I think I speak for anybody with a disability that they just want to be looked at as normal, even if we have to do ordinary things in an extraordinary manner.”
Is there a particular response from a colleague that stands out on your return to work?
I think it really was the entire response from KPMG. From the Detroit partners and national office sponsoring my auction to raise money for my medical costs when my accident first happened, to the outpouring of support and kind words when people heard my story, to ultimately the little things like flexibility to work from home occasionally, and co-workers offering to help physically when needed. I wasn’t sure when, how, and if I’d be able to return to work, and they helped what was a big step seem much smoother than it could have been.
On a more individual basis, it’s just nice when my partner or manager asks how I am doing and if there is anything that they need to be aware of. In almost all instances, it’s business as usual and not that I need special treatment, but it just shows they want to be supportive in the instance that I am struggling with something that I can bring it to their attention.
What initiatives does the US firm have in place to support people with disabilities?
We have numerous diversity groups that people can join. I started, and serve, as the Chapter Leader for the Detroit office AIM network upon returning to work from my accident, and it’s really driven around raising awareness of disability both internal and external to the workplace, inspiring confidence, and encouraging inclusion. It’s a broad group – people may be inclined to join it due to a variety of instances, such as caring for elderly parents, having a learning disability, or perhaps a child with autism. It’s been a nice avenue to be able to give back to the community that supported me during my recovery. 1 in 5 people in the workforce are affected by a disability in one form or another, so the group is there to support those that need it.
What further provision has improved your experience in the workplace?
The Detroit office just got sensors on some of the doors, which was a simple gesture, but really helps for ease of getting around.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them better support people with disabilities in the workplace?
I think most of it is just being willing to learn and ask questions. Knowledge is power, and if you are actively wanting to learn from others, I think it helps empower all of us. Which can be said for not only supporting disabilities in this instance, but in all walks of life. I think a lot of the time people think of disability as an awkward subject as you don’t want to unintentionally offend somebody. I completely understand that, but once you get past that comfort barrier I thinks some productive conversations can come from it, with people learning and accepting on both sides.
A recent statistic was released that 1 in 6 people will acquire a disability between the ages of 25 and 65, which is pretty eye opening that it could happen to anybody, which it did in my case. I think I speak for anybody with a disability that they just want to be looked at as one of the team, even if we have to do ordinary things in an extraordinary manner. I’m thankful to say that my colleagues don’t treat me any differently than they did when I was able-bodied.