TEDx Speaker on Building a Disability Inclusive Workplace
October is Disability Employment Awareness Month.
As an advocate for inclusion, Becky Curran Kekula works to educate and motivate communities to resist self-defeating thinking and create inclusive environments. In a recent webinar, she shared tips on the benefits to businesses to be more inclusive of people with disabilities in the workplace.
Becky Curran Kekula Background
Kekula discussed times in her life growing up in the Boston area, where she feared falling behind in school, but by senior year she had applied to nine colleges. She chose to attend Providence College in Rhode Island where she majored in marketing. After college, Kekula sent out 1,000 resumes and went on 100 interviews in the LA area over the course of four months. Each weekday, she would have up to four interviews. When she was interviewed, Kekula said that she knows she was judged by her appearance. The body language of those interviewing made these experiences uncomfortable, as well as the fact that she wasn’t asked the questions that would make her feel at ease. This led her to become an advocate for inclusivity in the workplace, specifically in the application, interview, onboarding, retention and advancement processes.
Representation of People with Disabilities in the Media
Due to her work with Creative Artists Agency (CAA), where she worked for five years in various departments, Kekula was asked to host a panel conversation of people with and without disabilities working in front of the camera and behind the scenes within the entertainment industry. During this discussion, panelists spoke about the representation of people with disabilities in the media. From there, she built social media content around the topic. Before leaving CAA, she had a conversation with a high-profile agent where she realized a new goal: get your highest-level people to talk about their relationship to disability because it will influence how the rest of the company acts. Storytelling allows for vulnerability and better representation. Following her time at CAA, she worked in casting for CBS Television Studios before moving back to the Boston area to begin telling her story to organizations and schools in order to spread a message of the importance of inclusivity. At schools, specifically, she would discuss accommodations for those similar to herself, advocating for people with disabilities to be included in all parts of the education process. Kekula went on to launch a little people organization of Kenya and worked in the equity and inclusion department for SAG-AFTRA in the New York City area as well.
Accommodations in Organizations
Kekula also discussed how businesses can prepare for hiring people with disabilities by creating touch points throughout the process, including during interviewing and onboarding. This means ensuring there is verbiage about accommodations available and easily accessible to applicants and new hires. People with disabilities are known to stay at companies and are typically loyal workers, but they deserve that loyalty in return. Businesses can help by encouraging advancement for people with disabilities. Kekula also said that organizations should be open to people with all kinds of disabilities, not just one type that first comes to mind. She also touched on if there’s not a job opening for a person with a disability at your organization, you don’t need to force one; but if you can create a space for someone with a disability to fill in, you should feel empowered to do so.
Watch the entire webinar below:
Greater Des Moines (DSM) welcomes diverse talent to the region. As one of the fastest growing business communities, inclusion and attracting diverse talent in the workplace is a key strategy of the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Learn more here.