By Maritz Global Events on 7/26/23 3:59 PM
Today is National Disability Independence Day (July 26), which commemorates the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In honor of this day, we are highlighting our Maritz Employee Resource Group – Individuals with Disabilities.
Our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) were formed at Maritz as part of our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) efforts and were based on surveys and focus group feedback from our employees. Created to provide a community-driven space for support and feedback, these groups ensure that we honor the individuality and needs of all employees. The passionate and dedicated team members that make up these groups give a great deal of time and energy to help us move our DE&I initiatives. We asked co-chairs of the People with Disabilities ERG, Brenda Lange and Sydney Kohm, about why they felt moved to lead this ERG and some of their upcoming plans:
What’s the main purpose of the Individuals with Disabilities ERG?
Brenda & Sydney: The goal of this group is to create a space where all employees feel valued and enabled for success by educating and raising awareness about important issues, promoting accessibility, and fostering a sense of community and support within the culture of Maritz for employees with disabilities.
What’s happening now?
Brenda & Sydney: The team published informational communication in April for Autism Awareness and May for Mental Health Awareness. To commemorate the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act into law on July 26th, the ERG will be hosting a Donut Social on our Fenton campus. We are targeting October to acknowledge Employee Disability Awareness Month with a few events. Tentatively, we have a Mental Health Lunch and Learn scheduled for October 10, as well as currently working with our ERG to make the rest of that month special.
What do you most want to accomplish this year? Next year?
Brenda & Sydney: For this year, establishing our ERG and building the community in the group is our first priority. We also are working on some quick resources that people can reference and use as support. Overall, we would like to increase awareness at Maritz.
For next year, we want to focus on creating learning opportunities on accessibility and manager/peer trainings to help create an increasing equitable work environment. Also, have a stable calendar of events which allow for planning and successful execution. Coming up with best practices to support managers and employees.
Why did you want to become a co-chair of this ERG at Maritz?
Sydney: As someone with a disability (I'm hard of hearing), I have a unique perspective as an employee. I am active in the disability community and am passionate about mental health, accessibility and people feeling heard in the workplace (pun intended). The idea of an ERG excited me. I wanted to help make progress at Maritz and meet people in similar situations as me. I think it's hard for people to be open about disabilities, even though it affects everything you do—including your job. I hope to set an example where people feel comfortable talking about their needs in a safe space.
Brenda: My older brother was one of the smartest, kindest and most positive guys I have ever known. He was also a quadriplegic. We grew up together and I became very comfortable supporting him as well as aggravated with some of the challenges he faced. When co-chairs were requested for the Maritz DE&I efforts, I wanted to be a part of the team because I am comfortable supporting co-workers who are individuals with disabilities as well as frustrated with some of the challenges they face. I am excited about the growth of the DE&I culture at Maritz and honored to support and contribute where I can.
What has been your favorite moment/experience so far?
Sydney: It's rare that I meet people my age with a hearing disability. I didn't start losing my hearing until I was in my early 20s. The pandemic's distancing rules made it much harder for me to communicate with people in person. Through the ERG, I met someone who's my age and is also hard of hearing. We've hung out since! That's part of the magic of these groups. It's nice to know you're not alone.
Brenda: The people! I know this sounds like such a typical answer, but in this case, it is 100% accurate. The teams are amazing and seeing the passion fellow employees have about creating belonging and enhancing a supportive work environment has been so energizing! I have learned a ton and have grown personally and professional with this experience.
A big thank you to Brenda, Sydney and the entire ERG for their passion, hard work and dedication to this important mission.