October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a time devoted to exploring disability employment issues and celebrating the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. Reflecting the important role disability plays in workforce diversity, the national theme of this year’s NDEAM observance is #InclusionWorks. In line with Sedgwick’s commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace and supporting the full potential of people with disabilities in our society, we are proud to participate in this annual observance.
Approximately 39.9 million people in the U.S. have some kind of disability. Many disabilities—such as serious illnesses or chronic health conditions, sensory limitations, mental health issues and intellectual/cognitive disabilities—are not immediately visible or apparent. These facts and figures highlight demographic information about people with disabilities, and this historical timeline documents the individual achievements of people with a variety of disabilities, plus legislation affecting legal opportunities for equality and inclusion.
Here at Sedgwick, we well know that the ability to work gives people a sense of purpose, allows them to support themselves financially, and improves their physical and mental wellbeing. Through our daily work on behalf of customers, our colleagues play a critical role in advocating for individuals with a variety of disabilities as they navigate the health care system, family and medical leave, workplace accommodations and transitioning back to work after an injury or illness. We are in the unique position of shaping the experience of millions of Americans with disabilities; by demonstrating that caring counts℠, our colleagues alleviate the sense of intimidation and exclusion that consumers with disabilities may feel.
Here are just two of the many stories at Sedgwick that I am proud to share with you that demonstrate our commitment to employing individuals with disabilities.
In 2008, when Adam Fritz was 21 years old and about to enter his senior year of college, a table slipped off a truck in front of his motorcycle and struck him, flinging him off his motorcycle and onto the freeway. He sustained a spinal cord injury and was told he’d never walk again. Working with researchers at the University of California at Irvine, he has defied the odds, taking steps in a laboratory with the help of cutting-edge technology that combines virtual reality and brain-computer interfaces. While Fritz waits for the technology to gain FDA approval and be made available for everyday use, he gets around in a wheelchair and spends three evenings a week at physical therapy to keep his body in prime shape. (Click here for more on his personal story.)
A couple of years ago, Fritz’s friend—a colleague in our Riverside, California, office—encouraged him to apply for our Industry Advancement Program (IAP). He did and was accepted. Sedgwick was able to accommodate all of Fritz’s accessibility needs at our Riverside location and make his workspace as comfortable as possible. He is now a successful claims representative handling workers’ compensation claims for a major hospital system in the San Diego area.
“I came into the claims industry as a blank slate with no experience,” Fritz said. “Going through the IAP set me up well for the position I’m in now. Because of my personal experience, I have a unique understanding of the challenges people face after an injury severe enough to change the rest of their lives. I feel for them because I know what they can expect, and I can empathize more with their situation.”
Fritz is an especially committed and hard-working colleague with tremendous hope for the future, despite his current physical limitations. That’s exactly the kind of person we want taking care of our customers.
In line with our commitment to creating employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, this past summer Sedgwick invited Ben Halvorson, a mainstreamed high school student with Down syndrome, to work as an office support apprentice for the pharmacy management team. “Ben demonstrated the spirit of Sedgwick as he worked diligently each day,” said Cindy Jaggers, VP of national utilization review and clinical pharmacy. “He became an inspiration to us all, as he was so excited to be able to work at Sedgwick. The company’s openness to considering people with disabilities for employment opportunities is absolutely the perfect expression of our caring counts philosophy.”
In reflecting on his summer internship, Halvorson wrote, “I really liked my job because it made me feel so busy. I worked so hard on the two computer monitors at my desk. I did the reports and copied email to my supervisor. I really liked to fill in whatever was needed for the group. Everyone made me feel welcome at Sedgwick. Thank you for letting me have this experience; it was really excellent!” (Halvorson’s story was featured in a Sedgwick-sponsored video for SRVS, a nonprofit provider of services for individuals with disabilities in West Tennessee.)
Differing abilities are part of the healthy diversity that not only makes Sedgwick a great company, but also brings tremendous value to our society. This month and throughout the year, we applaud our colleagues with disabilities for sharing their unique talents with us and recognize the wide-ranging achievements of individuals with disabilities.
Group Chief of Staff