New employee resource group addresses disabilities

Focus is on providing disabled employees with the right support and accommodations

(L-R): ViAbility’s Kenny Chan, Laurie Levenson, Robert Asperslag, Patty Scott, and Rebecca Harris at the group’s launch event in Carlsbad, CA Dec. 6, 2017.

Patty Scott, a technical recruiter on Viasat’s talent acquisition team, lost her sight at age 20 and knows what it’s like to be challenged by disability.

But that’s not why she started the ViAbility employee resource group at Viasat’s Carlsbad campus.

Her main goal is to make everyone aware of the role disability plays in all our lives.

“Viasat was the first company to see past the fact that I was blind.” —Patty Scott

“So many people are impacted by disability, whether or not they face it themselves,” Scott said at the group’s launch event December 6 in Carlsbad. “We all have a friend, a child, a neighbor or a personal experience with disability and can benefit by talking to someone about it.”

Viasat’s ViAbility invited all Carlsbad employees to the group’s inaugural event.

“We want to give employees affected by disabilities directly or indirectly a voice,” Scott said at the launch. “And give them someone to talk to, as well as remove any perceived or actual barriers and stigmas that people with disabilities face in the workplace.”

Scott faced sudden blindness while in college and spent the next three years after graduation looking for a job.

“Viasat was the first company to see past the fact that I was blind,” she said. That was four years ago. She started working in People and Culture, and saw an ongoing need for resources.

“The team at Viasat always embraced me,” she said. “But it was difficult to advocate for myself. I was afraid if I asked for something I needed people would think I was a giant pain or couldn’t do my job. I also didn’t know who to talk to for advice. Having someone to talk to and ask how they work with disability would have been so helpful.”

In addition to providing support, ViAbility is focused on connecting to the broader disability community to grow awareness that disability doesn’t equal inability, and help recruit and foster a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Awareness is especially powerful.

To that end, employees who attended the kickoff event spent time walking Carlsbad’s campus identifying areas the might pose challenges for co-workers with a disability.

Keeping in mind four types of disabilities – invisible (autism, dyslexia, cognitive, etc.), mobility, visual and hearing — employees at the event embarked on a hunt to look for areas that provided opportunity for a more inclusive work environment. These included implementing voice-activated sensors around elevators and stairways, and offering a delivery service for employees who can’t easily navigate the cafeteria.

It’s this mindfulness that can bring positive change.

“This group is for all of us,” Scott said. “It’s an employee group to help us connect and better understand how we can get and give support.”

The ViAbility resource group plans to meet regularly. For more details, send an email to viasat.diversity@viasat.com.

 

Debbie Anderson
About Debbie Anderson 1 Article
Debbie Anderson is a marketing writer in Viasat’s Carlsbad office. For many years, she was a freelance writer and blogger specializing in lifestyle, personal finance, humor and parenting topics. She’s developed and written content for marketing campaigns, social media channels and blogs, website, ads, packaging, newsletters and more.