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How ‘uncomfortable honesty’ creates resilient companies 


Watching his grandfather navigate the world in a wheelchair was a formative experience in Gregory Weitzman’s life.

Weitzman is the co-founder and chief operating officer at Flexability. Before he helped found Flexability, he worked at another organization that focused on employment for people with disabilities, but his passion for the cause was sparked long before he began his career.

“My grandfather used a wheelchair and my entire life I saw him use a wheelchair to get around. One of the things that I observed was how many things in the world were not made for individuals with disabilities. Universal design wasn’t really a concept then.”

“As I grew up, disability was just something I was connected to in my family, through him and through other family members who lived with mental illness or other conditions that affected the way they lived and moved through the world.

“This has been my connection to disability - seeing it as the way somebody navigates the world that they live in.”

Flexability was born of a realization that organizations and companies can play a critical role in creating a world that all people can navigate effectively, says Weitzman. Read about how Flexability helps organizations and businesses become more inclusive and diverse here.

“The market really isn’t creating inclusive spaces..."

“This is something that organizations really aren’t championing well. When they think of DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion], they think of other identities. They think of gender, race or sexual orientation. Few think of disability.

“We think the market really isn’t creating inclusive spaces and looking at the intersecting nature of disability and how this touches all the other identities.”

Like many of his colleagues, Weitzman sees the workplace as holding the greatest potential for helping transform the way societies perceive disabilities. We have put together a collection of resources on disability and employment here.

“The idea of inclusion in the workplace really seemed like an important step. [Work] is something that can transform a family’s life. We spend so much time there. It’s where we form friendships. It’s where we form relationships. It’s where careers, ambitions, motivations and aspirations come to life.

“So shouldn’t this be a place where inclusion and accessibility – the best examples of how we bring people together – become true and are valid?”

What does a truly inclusive and accessible workplace look like? For Weitzman it goes beyond the physical structure.

"There’s almost an ‘uncomfortable honesty’"

“Who is represented in different levels of the organization? Who is leaving the company? Who are the decision-makers when you enter the room? A lot of it is also about climate. Can people self-identify [as having a disability]? Can people really come to work and think: ‘I’m able to discuss the hearing loss I experience and the tools I need to be successful.’ There’s safety, there’s security, and there’s also a deep engagement.

“You have really engaged employees that are collaborating well. They are outspoken. There’s almost an ‘uncomfortable honesty’ at these organizations, because people can speak, share their vision, and share their voice and their perspective.”

This idea of self-identification is key. Weitzman believes too many employees with disabilities are afraid to reveal that they have a disability due to potential stigma. Research shows that in the United States as many as one in four people (25%) identify as having a disability. Yet, believes Weitzman, in many companies and organizations this drops to as low as 2% or 3% (you'll find resources on disability and employment here).

“It speaks to a likely case that [people with disabilities] are there, but they’re not self-identifying, because they don’t feel confident or comfortable. Another common issue is that companies are not sourcing talent inclusively.

“They’re also not retaining, promoting and creating spaces where people with disabilities can be successful. It’s a culture where they haven’t created a way for people to bring their best selves to work. Companies haven’t trained their management teams to do that.”

“Disability does not mean ‘less than’”

Weitzman says what’s really encouraging, however, is that there is a growing awareness in the corporate world that such cultures are damaging. He puts this down to clear evidence that diverse, inclusive companies consistently outperform companies that aren’t diverse and inclusive.

“There’s now economic and financial data that show if you do this well, your organization will perform better than [those of] your peers.

“Disability does not mean ‘less than’. Disability is the way in which you move through the world. And a quarter of us, throughout our lives, will weave in and out of having and experiencing a disability, whether it’s a physical disability or an invisible disability.

“Flexability is in the right place, at the right time, talking about the right things. The ultimate conversation is about intersecting identities. It’s about how all of this comes together. And true inclusion isn’t about inclusion of a single identity. True inclusion is about the inclusion of all the intersecting identities.”

Weitzman says most companies seem to understand that diversity and inclusion education is essential in order to remain competitive and effective. And more organizations are willing to go through the process, even if it means having to tackle uncomfortable truths. Read about Flexability's diversity and inclusion services here.

He believes information and education are important, as well as highlighting all perspectives on history and issues critical to shaping society and the country.

“How do you expect to empathize with someone about something you don’t know anything about? You can’t. How can you expect to understand the anger stemming from a person’s experience or understand systemic racism if you don’t know anything about it?”

Get in touch with our team to talk about how to create a diverse, successful and productive workplace in your company or organisation. Or share your stories using the hashtag #MyAbility and tagging @getflexability on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.