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Oskar Westin, introducing John McNabb at TELUS Digital.
Oskar Westin, introducing John McNabb at TELUS Digital.

Diversity, inclusion, and disability etiquette

Culture · Feb 13, 2020

Diversity and inclusion consultant, Verna Myers provided an interesting take on the relationship between diversity and inclusion. In an article written by the Cleveland Bar, she was quoted, “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance”. While it is easy to invite everyone to participate, it is not always so simple to get everyone to do what is being asked. Further, into the article, Myers went on to add that if we wish to confront the reality of diversity and inclusion, plans must go beyond just vocalizing the want to change things. For instance, training opportunities can play a very significant role in promoting change. Myers suggested that "this is the best time to be doing diversity and inclusion training in our country and our world because there are so many opportunities to move forward.” One person can’t change the world by themselves. It takes many individuals with the desire to "take the bull by the horns" and challenge this matter in order to promote change and growth within our world. Though this may sound like a daunting task, change can begin in small doses and in many different types of environments.

Enterprise organizations have been facing the challenging topic of diversity and inclusion for many years. Alongside the growth of large organizations comes hand in hand with several barriers and new challenges. From a growth standpoint, seeing your team expand is amazing but with that comes new learning curves such how do you create and maintain an inclusive culture for everyone within the work environment? At TELUS, the subject of diversity and inclusion is within our core values. We want our team members to be able to learn and work in an environment that allows for personal and professional growth.

One may ask "how is can an enterprise organization keep track and promote learning with so many team members?". One way we encourage learning at TELUS Digital is through free learning sessions. On a monthly bias, team members schedule and coordinate learning sessions that are open to everyone. As no two humans view or experience the world in the same way, we try to ensure that each learning session covers a new, unexplored topic. 

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

On International Day of Persons with Disabilities, John McNabb joined our team for a learning session about disability etiquette. As a former TELUS Digital team member and Accessibility Prime, John was familiar with our work culture and was happy to present ways in which team members can work with colleagues and clients who have disabilities. The purpose of John’s presentation was to reduce stigmas around accessibility and focus on the human rather than the disability.

John’s learning session began with some background information noting that people with disabilities are the largest minority group as it encompasses a large cross-section of society. John concluded the presentation by providing key takeaways that anyone can build into their everyday interactions within the workplace or building when building new relationships outside of work. While John was speaking specifically about people with disabilities, his recommendations speak in broad terms of respect, dignity, and leaving biases and stereotypes at the door. 

John’s key takeaways when meeting a person with a disability

Introduce yourself 

If you are the type of person that likes to talk to people, say hello, in the same way that you would introduce yourself to anyone else. If you don’t generally seek out new relationships, then perhaps wait for an opportunity when it makes sense to say hello, rather than making yourself feel uncomfortable. 

Keep an open mind

Don’t make assumptions about the person. This is a new friend or colleague, and you wouldn’t want to misrepresent them or misrepresent yourself, by jumping to conclusions. 

Start a conversation 

Chat in the same way that you would when starting any new relationship. Don’t overthink when you’re speaking to a person with a disability. Use the same words you would use when speaking to any other new friends. 

Diversity and Inclusion at TELUS Digital

Over the last 8 years, TELUS Digital has grown quite a bit in size. In 2012, we started with a team of 40 team members and expanded to over 300 team members. While it is extraordinary we have scaled our team so quickly over a few years, it is important to remember we must also mature our culture for everyone. As a company, we must allow our team members to have opportunities to grow alongside their careers. John McNabb’s insights on etiquette towards people with disabilities provided another set of tools for our team to continue to become better advocates for diverse communities and excellent people. 

We have a long way to go at TELUS Digital, before we can say that we have a fully inclusive culture. We are aware of our gaps and are actively trying to promote diverse hiring practices while building safe spaces for each team member, so they are able to feel comfortable, confident, and included. We have a volunteer-driven Diversity in Tech Council to contribute towards creating a more inclusive workplace. It’s a small step, but with continued support from our leadership and the strategy team, we will do our best to identify and solve the gaps and overcome barriers to make TELUS a stronger company. We want to build a friendly future for all and it begins from the inside first - our team


Follow us on Instagram and Twitter, @telusdigital for more events and updates. If you’re interested in joining our team, check out our careers page!

Authored by:
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Sydney Carey
Marketing Specialist
Sydney Carey is a Marketing Specialist at TELUS Digital. Usually you can find her curating content with a large vanilla latte in hand or tuning into sports.
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Oskar Westin
Senior Digital Accessibility Strategy Manager
Oskar is a senior digital accessibility strategy manager. He is committed to helping people to understand accessibility and disability while to improving the digital experience. He is also a co-organizer of #a11yTO, a Toronto-based Accessibility group.