October in the U.S. is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and we couldn't agree more with the point-of-view expressed in this year's theme: "Inclusion Drives Innovation."
In recognition of the value that people with disabilities—and those who care for them—bring to P&G, we wanted to share the stories of just a few of the women and men of P&G who not only face every day with determination, but who play an influential and proactive role in promoting a more inclusive and accommodating workplace worldwide.
Project REACH, our People with Disabilities Network, and our Employees with Disabled Dependents Network are among the many resources at P&G that support and provide community for P&Gers. We sat down with some of the members of these important groups to hear their stories, and learn about the impact they have on the P&G community overall.
Like many of us, Trevor Hutchinson was pleased to find any employment after graduating from school when he joined the Green Bay Plant 20 years ago. He recounts how, in his interview and during his initial days at P&G, he tried to hide his disability—degenerative muscular myelopathy, a challenging task as it causes him to tire quickly and limits his physical mobility.
As Trevor progressed in the Company, he realized that P&G strives to provide for its people in every way possible. As a member of the Plant Leadership Team today in Lima, he speaks up for P&Gers like himself, encouraging them to “Ask the Company for things they want.” Simple changes, such as keeping one computer at home to avoid the stress of traveling to and from the office with a heavy work bag, alleviated much of the stress in his everyday life.
Marc Vanrafelghem, a Regulatory Manager in Fabric and Home Care in Cincinnati, grew up playing soccer as a boy in Belgium. At the age of nine, Marc noticed symptoms of hereditary spastic paraplegia, a neuromuscular disorder that first presents as foot dragging, which worsened as he entered Wright State University.
Today, Marc is a dedicated golfer and has raced 20 full marathons. When he joined P&G, he was most impressed with the curiosity of his colleagues. He appreciated the questions they asked and their desire to learn more about his disability.
Marc joined the People with Disabilities Network from day one. “I feel like I have been able to give to the Company through People with Disabilities Network, which focused on my passion about accessibility. I learned a lot along the way because my focus was on what I needed, and in the process I learned more about the needs of others with different disabilities.”
While at P&G, Marc has explored new ways to meet the needs of those with hearing or vision impairments. This enlightenment motivated his involvement with global business services, which moves beyond accessibility of facilities to a broader scale that focuses on updating universal workplace design guidelines to create a safe work environment for all people.
Cindy Hazlett's disability seems invisible to most. She has had a mental illness her entire life, and going to work actually makes her days easier.
“One thing I tell people about P&G is that as big as we are, I feel like I still work with family. They are very warm and accepting of my unique challenges and always give me the flexibility I need to meet the needs of my family as well as take care of myself. I’ve worked part time. I’ve worked from home. I’ve always been supported.” Her son has endured several surgeries and treatments and has a cognitive disability who also requires her attention.
P&G's culture of acceptance has made all the difference for Cindy. She describes herself as “differently-abled,” an empowering perspective of her unique position. Cindy leads the focus on invisible disabilities and family member dependents as an active member of the Employees with Disabled Dependents group, a place where she has found true friends. Her work has been awarded for bringing in valuable speakers to the group and supporting the launch of Project REACH.
Passionate HR Capability Manager Barbara Miller feels a strong sense of identification and pride with National Disabilities Awareness Month. She has left an indelible mark on P&G and several hundred students around the Cincinnati area.
Barbara brought Project REACH to P&G in January 2012, which gives differently-abled local students the chance to gain work experience at P&G. This unique job training opportunity invites students to discover their gifts and build work-life skills.
She also believes Project REACH has had a profound impact on employees. “Employees can see the people with disabilities differently, and understand what they can do. It’s impacted the culture, and pride in the Company. We are doing something that is enabling and creating value both for the Company and for the employees and the community.”
This human-to-human impact—building confidence and opening minds—is the essence of touching and improving lives. We're grateful for these P&Gers, who bring their unique perspectives and abilities to work every day to improve the lives of all our employees, and the consumers we serve.