As the violinist began to play the next song, the audience might have expected a classical piece. Instead, a fast-paced bluegrass song about a fiddle-playing contest, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," by the Charlie Daniels Band, burst out of the classical instrument. And playing this fiddle? Giovanna Dubuc, the 15-year-old daughter of Jenny Clemente, Ingersoll Rand’s director of diversity and inclusion, wearing a special prosthesis to play her violin. “If you close your eyes, you would not be able to tell that behind that tune there is a young person playing the violin with an adaptive device. We can use this example as practice to challenge our unconscious biases and expectations, and instead be inspired by someone’s abilities,” said Jenny.
The mother and daughter share a passion for diversity and inclusion programs, as seen at the recent concert celebrating
the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which granted people with disabilities access to transportation, education, and the accommodations needed to provide equity. The socially distanced concert was hosted by
the North Carolina chapter of Disability: IN. As a Disability: IN steering committee member, Jenny promotes the full inclusion of people with disabilities, visible and those that can’t be seen. The ADA has encouraged similar laws and protections around the world, with more access and opportunities creatively developed each day.
“Companies must pave the way for future generations and continue with the legacy of those who collectively started a movement to support disability rights,” said Giovanna. As Jenny explained, companies that hire talent with disabilities have the benefits of high rates of productivity, dedication, greater retention and engagement across the workforce. The ingrained adaptability of this community is a driver for solving problems, new ideas and openness to change.
So, how do we create accessibility in the workplace, including virtual meetings? In recent years, closed captioning has become one of the most common accommodations, but the real work starts with deliberate inclusion and well-defined actions in the workplace that would allow employees with disabilities to have reasonable accommodations:
Globally, more than 1.3 billion people have a disability, making this the largest minority group that is the least represented. These statistics reveal a high chance that ableism* could be a contributor factor deviating from achieving true equity for people with disabilities worldwide, which triggers a very simple question: What can you do to become more aware? We can all learn more about the challenges people with disabilities face at work and incorporate empowerment and inclusion into how we interact with each other.
“Taking the opportunity to connect with people that view challenges through a different lens is not only stimulating and motivating, but also a very rewarding experience. As a mother, as a woman, as a professional, I am still learning to listen, engage, reflect, empower and embrace the unique features that make someone special. I would love to see Giovanna work at a company like Ingersoll Rand and apply her ability to solve problems to the work we do for our customers,” Jenny said.
Help us celebrate the freedom the ADA inspires with forward-thinking design, technology and empowered solutions.
*Ableism is a form of discrimination against people with disabilities, being seen as lesser or having their access controlled based on their abilities.