Another great piece from Evenbreak employer, Facebook.
When Jeffrey S. lost 85% of his eyesight, he was just 19 years old. “I was in the army and was prescribed the wrong medication,” he explains. “It was completely unexpected. I was told my eyesight would continue to deteriorate over time, and I didn’t know what it would mean for my future—if I’d be able to have a productive career, or see the world as I’d always dreamed of doing.”
What Jeffrey did know was that he wanted to explore the world before he could no longer see it. “I traveled to over 50 countries,” he fondly recalls. “I went backpacking by myself and loved trying new adventures like sky-diving and bungee jumping—it was one of the best experiences of my life.”
Jeffrey, now an HR project manager at Facebook, is 98% blind and describes his vision as “looking through a straw.” He is one of many people helping to make a difference for people at the Facebook company who are part of the Disability@ Facebook Resource Group—a community for anyone who self-identifies as having a long-term health condition, physical disability, or mental health condition; as being neurodivergent; or as an ally to these groups of people.
Building community through shared experiences
Chris H., a client solutions manager, was in the military for 12 years when a life-changing event happened, pivoting his career path. “I got started in marketing after I left the military following an accident in which I lost my leg,” Chris shares. “I was working in London at a startup and trying to figure out how to get into a big company. One night while I was out, I bumped into someone at a military members bar who worked here at Facebook. We shared stories over drinks, I sent him my resume, and he’s been a bit of a mentor ever since.”
Chris joined Facebook in January of 2020, and early on, put up a post about his injury. “A number of people reached out to me privately to chat about shared disabilities and ask questions. Several people from Disability@ also reached out, and I felt supported in a way that I never had at other companies,” he reflects.
Jeffrey joined Disability@ to connect with others who might be going through the same things as him. He explains: “Not all disabilities are visible, and remote working has made it harder for others to know about my vision impairment. I decided to create a video of my personal story along with productivity tips so I wouldn’t have to repeatedly explain my disability. Right now, I’m working with the team to indicate on Workplace so anyone who looks me up can see I have a vision impairment and learn how to work with me. I’m focused on finding ways to help others self-identify their disabilities and navigate similar challenges.”
How intersectionality leads to inclusivity
As a way to build community and empower others, Chris and Jeffrey joined other Facebook Resource Groups, too. For Chris, the Vets and Allies@ Facebook Resource Group has helped him connect with fellow team members who also served in the military, something that brings a huge smile to his face when he talks about the camaraderie of service members.
“This is a powerful community and we’re all very close. In the military, we had a weekly tradition of ‘tea and toast’ on camp. We recently brought the tradition to Facebook, and it has been a great experience connecting with others on such a personal level, sharing old stories, and catching up on work.”
For Jeffrey, diversity and inclusion are extremely important. In 2020, he worked with the Diversity Engagement team and the Women@ Facebook Resource Group to plan the first virtual International Women’s Leadership Day, focusing on the male ally strategy and engagement.
“I was the only blind, Asian, gay veteran in the room, so I got a glimpse into how it feels like you’re alone or to be the only one of your gender. That moment gave me really valuable insight into the culture and importance of inclusion in Facebook, and it was also so fun to help plan that event and see everyone come together to honor and celebrate the women who work at Facebook.”
Chris weighs in: “At Facebook, everyone is open and honest, and they don’t make assumptions about other people’s needs. I fundamentally believe that if I need help, it is up to me to voice my needs, and Facebook provides an environment where I feel comfortable doing so. If we can be open about our disabilities and the support we need, we can better educate those around us and cultivate a stronger culture of inclusivity.”
“People join resource groups to connect through shared passions and build their community. In this case, we are creating connections with other people experiencing similar disabilities and taking away the ambiguity of working with differently abled individuals,” Jeffrey affirms. “By explaining the little things that we need in order to be successful, and making systemic changes that are sustainable and scalable, we will ultimately build an even more inclusive culture and future.”