Diversity Works: Employing People with Disabilities Improves Everyone’s Lives

We must all do more to make the workplace – and the world – more accessible to people of all abilities.

Photo by Milan Maracek
by Natalie Bodus
October 28, 2021

The hit single “Superstition,” the best-selling book “A Brief History of Time,” and the lightbulb all have at least one thing in common – they were created by people with disabilities. (Thank you, Stevie Wonder, Stephen Hawking and Thomas Edison!)

They aren’t the only ones making an incredible impact on our lives, though. And there are plenty of people who could be rock stars (or inventors, educators and problem-solvers) if we just gave them a chance. That’s why we’re taking active steps to increase diversity within our workforce, including a focus on people with disabilities. We need their talents, unique ideas, specialized skill sets, and enthusiasm to help extend the edge of possibilities – for our customers, our partners, and the world.

Yet, myths, misconceptions, unconscious bias and fear can often lead to poor decisions, particularly when it comes to hiring. That’s why Zebra employees are also volunteering their time with non-profit organizations serving the disabled community. Members of Zebra’s new Inclusion Network for people with disabilities and their allies, Zebras of All Abilities (ZoAA), is working to combat these harmful ways of thinking with education, resources, teambuilding and community-based initiatives.

Here are just a few ways we’re educating ourselves and others about what we can do to better support those with disabilities who want to share and celebrate their strengths:

Czech Republic

Veronika Hybaskova, a senior manager on Zebra’s talent acquisition team, began asking herself why she didn’t see many people with disabilities applying to work at our Brno, Czech Republic office. With 15% of the global population experiencing some form of disability, surely there should be a more diverse pool of applicants, she thought. Veronika sought to educate herself and her teammates on how they could foster a more inclusive environment.

Zebras in our Brno office have volunteered with non-profit organizations that provide resources and support for people with disabilities for a few years now. With these relationships already established, Veronika felt it was time to take the next step in more actively listening and learning from this community to make an impact in her own office.

Last year, the Brno team began working with AGAPO, a non-profit organization that connects employers and people with disabilities and offers consultation services for work arrangements. The relationship has already helped place and support an individual with disabilities in the Brno office.

While recruitment is underway, volunteering hasn’t taken a backseat. This past June, nearly 20 Zebra employees based in Brno volunteered their time to support the Emil Open. The annual event, also called the Summer European Youth Games for the Disabled, is an international social gathering hosting more than 750 young people with disabilities and their allies from 14 countries. Zebra volunteers set up a booth at the games to share what it’s like to work at Zebra and to learn from attendees about the needs of their community.

Also participating in the games and cheered on by Zebra employees were members of Liga Vozíčkářů (Wheelchair League), an organization with a mission of helping people with disabilities strengthen their skills to achieve independence. Zebras in Brno have worked with Liga Vozíčkářů on both philanthropy and volunteer opportunities since 2020.

United States

National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is held each October to “commemorate the many and varied contributions of people with disabilities to America’s workplaces and economy.” While NDEAM is limited to October, Zebra employees recognize the work ethic and contributions of people with disabilities all year long.

This past August, members of the Zebras of All Abilities (ZoAA) inclusion network traveled from across the United States to gather in Rockford, Illinois and participate in the Tough Mudder. A 10-mile course where participants can test their physical and mental abilities while working together as a team to overcome obstacles without the pressure of competition, the Tough Mudder represents inclusion in its truest form. The group came together to work through the obstacles, relying on everyone’s unique skillsets to complete the course – no Zebra left behind.

The team also raised funds for four non-profit organizations that help improve the lives of people with disabilities and have placed full-time employees in Zebra’s Buffalo Grove, Illinois and Bentonville, Arkansas repair facilities. Zebra matched the donations to double the impact of the team’s efforts.

One of those organizations is Pathfinder, Inc., based in Rogers, Arkansas. Pathfinder, Inc. is responsible for introducing Zebra to the talented Larry Bobbitt, who has worked in our repair depot since November 2020.

Larry was born with scoliosis of the spine and a malformed right forearm. While his physical disability presents a unique set of challenges, Larry doesn’t allow it to stop him from much, let alone the Tough Mudder – which he has already signed up to participate in next year!

Brazil

Nanismo Brasil is a charity in Brazil that advocates for the rights of people with dwarfism by fighting prejudice and educating communities on how to foster an inclusive societal culture.

Last month, a nutritionist and personal trainer who are partners of Nanismo Brasil hosted a webinar for more than 60 attendees from Zebra and its own organization.

The educational session was offered to help attendees understand the importance of nutrition and exercise in maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle. Attendees were presented with a challenge: walk for the duration of the meeting, counting your steps as you go. At the end of the meeting, attendees who participated were entered into a raffle and received prizes.

Zebra originally began working with Nanismo Brasil during Zebra’s inaugural Global Week of Service in 2020. Latin America-based Zebras were introduced to the organization by Mariana Souza Silva, a senior advisor on Zebra’s marketing team, whose mother had dwarfism. After Mariana’s mother passed away, Mariana sought to honor her memory by continuing to advocate for people with dwarfism with Nanismo Brasil.

It is empowering to see Zebra Nation express allyship and serve as advocates for people of all abilities, yet our work is never truly done. We will continue to open our hearts – and career opportunities – to those who have a lot to offer.

If you would like to learn more about how Zebra is working to recruit people with disabilities, or if you would like to support any of our ongoing Inclusion & Diversity efforts, please check out these related blog posts.

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Natalie Bodus
Natalie Bodus is Zebra's Senior Director of Inclusion and Diversity and Employer Brand. She and her team are focused on ensuring that all employees are seen, heard, valued, and respected.