Mike Marrone, BCBSRI vice president of financial operations and executive sponsor of Disability Inclusion Network; and Shikenya Gough, BCBSRI IT product manager and Disability Inclusion Network leader

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reshape personal and professional lives, it’s more important now than ever before to recognize the different needs of every member of the workforce, and commit to better support for those with disabilities. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) recently launched its newest employee business resource group (EBRG), Disability Inclusion Network. This EBRG advocates for people with disabilities and impairments by tackling accessibility gaps in the workplace head-on. At a time when the working world has been fundamentally restructured, this new group seeks to support individuals with disabilities and serve as a driving force for breaking down accessibility barriers.

Many of us know family, friends and colleagues who, as a result of their disability or impairment, face disadvantages in their personal and professional lives. Dedicated to enhancing the experience of current and future BCBSRI associates with disabilities, the Disability Inclusion Network stands for inclusion and accessibility for all. BCBSRI’s core values of collaboration, accountability, respect and integrity serve as guiding principles for the Disability Inclusion Network. This new EBRG strives to create a community where individuals – regardless of ability – coexist with equal opportunity and equal recognition.  

In an increasingly digital world, accelerated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Disability Inclusion Network will focus on accessibility issues across digital platforms – an area with a multitude of barriers for people with disabilities. Scrolling through your social media feed, looking something up online, texting on your phone – these are just a few of the day to day activities that many of us take for granted but are inaccessible to millions of people with disabilities. Disability Inclusion Network will partner with our user experience designers, app developers, and technology leaders to work with a lens of inclusivity when it comes to building digital environments – addressing digital accessibility issues at their root.

At a corporate level, increasing the inclusion of people with disabilities is vitally important to the growth, performance and success of the workplace. From a hiring standpoint, the advent of this new EBRG reinforces opportunities to draw from a more diverse pool of candidates who can offer unique skills, talents and problem-solving approaches. The Disability Inclusion Network aims to support the professional paths of all individuals with disabilities and reshape the corporate environment to create equal opportunities.  

In the spirit of accessibility for all, the Disability Inclusion Network is open to all BCBSRI associates committed to resolving the inequities faced by individuals affected by disabilities. The network is currently recruiting associates to become members and leaders of this EBRG, all of whom are expected to embrace the importance and benefit that comes with broader inclusivity. Among the network’s inaugural initiatives are:

  • Reassessing BCBSRI’s accessibility policies and guidelines.
  • Collaborating with human resources to ensure a smooth and affirming experience for candidates and current associates with disabilities.
  • Launching a campaign to encourage associates to self-identify as having one or more disabilities.

Now more than ever, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to work together to overcome both the new accessibility challenges presented through increased digital work as well as the long-standing barriers within our society. BCBSRI’s Disability Inclusion Network is already actively working to create change and build a community of equal opportunity – and we look forward to sharing the news of positive changes and inclusion successes effected in the near future.