As the Global Co-chair of the DisAbility Impact Group (DIG) at Conduent and charter member of this Employee Impact Group that was started in January of 2018, I have been working to help others at Conduent embrace what is amazing and unique about every individual. Although some of us are differently abled, the contributions we can and do make to the people we work with, our company and our communities are limitless.
I was born with a minor case of cerebral palsy, but I didn’t receive a proper diagnosis until I was 17 years old. Until that time, my condition was so mild that all the doctors I consulted believed that I would grow out of my limp and slurred speech. It took a doctor in Florida to finally diagnose me with cerebral palsy. At that juncture, I was relieved to find a reasonable explanation for why I walked and talked the way I did — but that certainly was not the end of the story.
The condition has slowly progressed to the point where I now use a walker. I also had my vocal cords severed and larynx crushed when I tripped up a flight of stairs in August 1988. As a result of this, my voice is barely above a whisper, and I use a phone app to communicate so I am audible to my friends and family. These physical challenges have only fueled my desire to assist other disAbled individuals to LIVE LIFE LOUD!
What exactly does that mean? I believe that all individuals have the right to be employed (if they so choose), as long as they have the qualifications for a particular job — regardless of any disability they may have. We were all created with unique talents and abilities, so we all have something to contribute. Therefore, it’s important that we speak up, take part in life and have the opportunity to participate in a meaningful (and respectfully LOUD, if we choose) manner. For me, it’s not only important to model this attitude and approach to life at work, but I’m also setting an example for my children and family.
Not only do I have a couple of disabilities, my son Nick has Asperger’s Syndrome (a high functioning form of autism) that presents its own set of challenges. Our family is unique and special, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Perhaps our paths will cross someday and you can share your story with me. If you’re a Conduent employee reading this, maybe you’ll even join our DIG! Until then, enjoy your journey through life and LIVE LIFE LOUD!
About the author:
Erik Russell is a Quality Assurance Analyst within Conduent’s Government Solutions team. He’s based in Fort Wayne, Indiana and has been with the company since 1992.