Uponor, a long-time partner of Lifeworks, is bringing the disability inclusion conversation directly to their employees.
A 2023 survey found that most workers think focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is important. However, many DEI conversations in the workplace often omit disability as a topic of inclusion. After attending the Lifeworks Listen. EDUCATE. Navigate.™ disability inclusion event in June, Aubrey Mozer, Community Relations Manager at Uponor, knew that hosting a disability inclusion training would be impactful for her workplace.
Before inviting Lifeworks to train their staff, Uponor had started making efforts to strengthen disability inclusion by evaluating their physical workspaces and their hiring practices. Aubrey saw the disability inclusion training as an opportunity to continue their investment in inclusion. “I thought it was a really good topic and knowing that we have this partnership with Lifeworks already, it made a lot of sense to work with them [and] bring in their expertise. We’ve been hearing [from staff] throughout our company, really starting at the top of our leadership, [that this topic was important].”
Uponor, an intelligent plumbing and climate solutions company located in Apple Valley, MN, has been a long-time partner of Lifeworks. With 58 years of experience partnering with people with disabilities and driving inclusion in our communities, Uponor trusted the expertise that Lifeworks could bring to their workforce. Uponor invited Lifeworks to provide a 2-hour training at their manufacturing center in Apple Valley – conveniently located across the street from a Lifeworks location.
The “Inclusive Workplaces for People with Disabilities” training includes a one-hour presentation, a panel discussion with people with lived experience, and opportunities for thoughtful conversation with guided questions for attendees. The goal of the training is to encourage staff at a company to consider best practices for creating an inclusive culture for and with people with disabilities. Through exposure to new concepts and relevant information about workers with disabilities, staff can leave training committed to taking specific actions to be inclusive and ready to encourage their co-workers to join them.
Here’s what we did
Lifeworks Vice President of Programs, Kevin Kmetz, led the presentation for in-person attendees and virtual attendees worldwide, challenging the notion that creating accessible workspaces is difficult. Attendees were receptive to the message – reimagining how they can make an inclusive environment through conversation with their co-workers.
The presentation was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Lifeworks Vice President of Programs, Kelsey Kostohryz. The panel featured three individuals with disabilities and an Uponor employee who is a parent of a child with a disability.
Michael Cohn, a panelist who works security for BEST Crowd Management, talked about how barriers in the community and employment led him to make most of the opportunities in his life – from work to personal relationships. Reflecting on his own experiences, Michael asked the audience to examine their biases about people with disabilities. “It is wrong to judge a person with a disability based on their appearance,” he says.
Jonda Donsare, a Lab Assistant at Ecolab, echoed Michael’s sentiments, adding, “Do not judge people with disabilities. They can do what you can do.” Jonda also acknowledged the importance of including people with disabilities in elements of company culture that we often take for granted, like being invited to workplace events.
Kelsey asked panelists, “Why should places hire people with disabilities and focus on disability inclusion?” Said Shaiye, an Autistic Somali writer and photographer who is also a Career Navigation Counselor at Lifeworks, responded, “Recognizing a person’s humanity – that’s the beginning and the end of the question.”
Said’s comment resonated with Aubrey: “I thought Said said it so well when he said we’re all human. It’s the humanity at the core of it. We’re all people looking to feel a sense of accomplishment and have purpose.”
The final panelist, Lance Wilson, Program Manager of Business Architecture at Uponor, discussed his experience as a parent of a child with a disability. “My personal journey was balance,” he shares. Lance spoke to how Lifeworks helped him find a middle ground between being overly protective and supportive of his child as they navigate employment.
Upon concluding the panel discussion, attendees joined in small groups to talk over reflection questions. Attendees used this opportunity to apply what they learned and envision the next steps with their peers.
In total, 134 employees attended the training, including global human resource partners. Jon Sillerud, Vice President of Integrated Supply Chains at Uponor, was one of the Uponor leaders who participated in the disability inclusion training. Jon took away from the training to “make sure that we look at people as the whole, not what we may see or hear initially from somebody, but to look deeper to find people’s capabilities.”
Attendees completed a survey at the start and end of the training to gauge their knowledge. One question asked attendees to rate how confident they were in supporting a co-worker or direct report with a disability appropriately. Before the training, 38% of attendees felt confident supporting someone with a disability. After attending the training, 76% of attendees reported feeling confident, which shows the impact of the practical tips shared in the training.
By bringing the disability inclusion conversation directly to our partners at Uponor, we provided the tools needed to launch their efforts to advance disability inclusion. If our communities are to be radically inclusive, we need community members, organizations, and businesses to take the next step with us. If you want to explore what disability inclusion training can do for your workplace – contact Lifeworks today!