Broadcasting the Benefits of Disability Inclusion
“TV is universal. Access should be as well.” With these words, Comcast Corporation summarizes its commitment to ensuring its technologies are accessible to customers with disabilities. Within the company, this same commitment to inclusion is put into practice through the company’s employment practices. For instance, Comcast employees with disabilities are supported, and their perspectives represented, through the company’s disability-focused employee resource group (ERG), MyAbilities Network@Comcast. Comcast subsidiary NBCUniversal has also committed to building a workforce that reflects its customers by actively recruiting, hiring, advancing, and retaining people with disabilities. To measure the progress of its disability inclusion efforts, in 2018, Comcast NBCUniversal launched an initiative to encourage employees with disabilities to self-identify.
Accessibility Inside and Out
“Accessibility starts with the recognition that disability is not the lack of an ability. It’s the lack of a solution. We define accessibility as the measure of how effectively people with disabilities can interact with our services.”
– Tom Wlodkowski, Comcast Cable’s Vice President of Accessibility
Beyond closed captioning and audio description, the accessibility features of Comcast’s products and services include technologies such as talking guides and voice-activated remote controls. To ensure that customers with disabilities have the best possible experience utilizing Comcast’s accessibility features, the company opened an Accessibility Support Center in 2016. Located at Comcast’s call center in Spokane, WA, the Accessibility Support Center is staffed by customer service employees dedicated to providing personalized assistance. Many of the customer service representatives have disabilities themselves or family members with a disability.
MyAbilities Network@Comcast, the company’s disability-focused ERG, also spearheads a number of activities to foster a disability-inclusive workplace culture. These include hosting Disability Mentoring Day events every October in collaboration with community partners. As part of this effort, young adults with disabilities are invited to spend a day at the Comcast Center in Philadelphia to meet with Comcast’s senior leadership and staff members to learn about the company and participate in professional development opportunities, including resume reviews, mock interviews, and networking sessions.
In addition, Comcast observes Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), held each year on May 21, by sharing information about the company’s internal and external disability inclusion efforts and highlighting its accessibility features for customers. In 2018, Comcast held a week-long slate of activities in celebration of GAAD that included a companywide, town hall style webcast to introduce its newest accessible products and inspire its workforce to continue to develop innovative products and services for its customers with disabilities.
Disability Inclusion at Comcast NBCUniversal
The core value of inclusion of people with disabilities also extends to Comcast subsidiary NBCUniversal, as illustrated by the company earning the number four spot on DiversityInc’s 2019 Top Companies for People With Disabilities list. The company’s disability inclusion strategy is based on three key elements: building a talent pipeline by working with partners in the disability community; cultivating an inclusive workplace environment through education and training of its workforce; and empowering employees with disabilities by ensuring equal access to the tools, information, and supports they need to succeed. In 2018, to benchmark its disability inclusion efforts and measure success going forward, Comcast NBCUniversal launched a campaign to encourage employees with disabilities to self-identify.
Comcast NBCUniversal also partners with disability-focused nonprofit organizations to expand opportunities for Americans with disabilities. These partnerships include working with the American Association of People with Disabilities to sponsor the NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship for undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities interested in pursuing a career in the communications, media, or entertainment industry. In addition, Comcast NBCUniversal partnered with Easterseals to create the Fred J. Maahs, Jr. Assistive Technology Grant Fund. The fund, named after a former Comcast executive who helped develop the partnership and serves on the Easterseals National Board of Directors, supports a variety of assistive technology programs and services, including braille-equipped handheld computers and augmentative communication devices. The fund has provided assistance to nearly 57,000 Americans with disabilities since 2011.
Bernadette Krause is an example of an employee with a disability who is thriving at Comcast, having taken on new opportunities and additional responsibilities within 18 months on the job. Bernadette has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair and workplace accommodations such as speech-assisted computer technology. After graduating from Temple University in 2016 with a degree in media studies and production, she applied for more than 100 jobs, but was not able to find the right fit. That changed when Bernadette attended Comcast’s Disability Mentoring Day event in October 2016. During the event, Bernadette spoke with several Comcast employees, including a senior talent recruiter who she kept in touch with for several months afterward. The following spring, Bernadette was hired by Comcast as a community manager for talent acquisition.
“I was so used to having companies just write me off. As cliché as it may sound, Disability Mentoring Day was a ray of hope,” Bernadette said. “Companies can claim to be inclusive, but Comcast NBCUniversal was acting on it and not just saying the right words to build their brand.”
Prior to Bernadette’s first day of work, Comcast put in place workplace accommodations, such as automated hallway doors, and provided training for her coworkers so they would understand how to interact with her service dog, Gusto. Krause received a computer and phone with speech-to-text programs she was familiar with and comfortable using. She also was provided with a flexible schedule that allows her to work from home during inclement weather.
Bernadette currently works as an advocacy engagement specialist with the company’s Corporate Communications Social Response Team, helping to create connections and provide support so that customers have the best possible Comcast experience. She has also taken on additional responsibilities such as supervising direct reports. Bernadette continues to participate in Disability Mentoring Day activities, now acting as a mentor to other perspective employees with disabilities.