A Different Way of Life

Four Colleagues Living with Disabilities Share Their Experiences

According to the World Health Organization, disability has three dimensions: impairment, activity prevention, and participation restriction in a person's body structure or function, or mental functioning.

Today, roughly one billion people, or 15% of the world's population live with some form of disability, and while significant progress has been made to make the world more accessible, much more work is needed.

We asked four of our colleagues to reflect on what it's like living with a disability and to reveal the challenges and support they have received along the way. Read their stories and learn how we can all help foster an inclusive workplace and society.

"We are trying to construct a more inclusive society. We are going to make a country in which no one is left out."
- Franklin D. Roosevelt

Schuyler Michael
Head of Operations,
EG: U.K.

I have Cerebral Palsy (CP) on my right side due to oxygen deprivation at birth. My umbilical cord strangled me in the womb and I was stillborn. Making matters worse, the defibrillator in my delivery room was broken. I was saved by a quick-thinking doctor who heard the commotion while passing by. He put a straw from his own beverage down my throat to save me. However, the left side of my cerebellum was affected by the 45 seconds that I lacked oxygen.

I spent the first 12 years of my life in physical and occupational therapy learning how to do things differently than fully abled people. I then learned that while my condition wasn’t going to worsen, it also was not going to improve. Today, I have issues with motor skills on my right side, balance, and gait but I’m healthy, play many sports and have a beautiful wife and two kids. I am very lucky!

I prefer to discuss my disability rather than have people dance around the subject because they don’t know what to say. I wish that people would ask me directly about my CP rather than Googling it. Googling medical conditions is a bad idea in general, but a CP search tends to show only the most graphic and extreme cases.

At work, I am best supported when people ask me about CP and then treat me like any other employee; recognizing that my physical disability does not mean I can’t do my job well. At the risk of sounding clichéd, please do not treat disabled kids differently. Yes, make necessary accommodations for them but also let them play sports, hang with friends and be kids even though they are different. My own childhood was one of the best times of my life because my parents didn’t let me think I was anything but that, a kid.

-Schuyler Michael

"No one would talk much in society if they knew how often they misunderstood others."
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

A photo of Jo Portlock with headphones on

Jo Portlock
Vice President, Diversity & Inclusion,
LexisNexis Risk Solutions: U.K.

I have dyslexia, which I have been aware of since I was eight years old. People with dyslexia and neurodiversity think differently and often have superpowers and strengths related to how they think, but struggle in other areas. 

I’m fortunate that my dyslexia was identified when I was at school, so from an early age I’ve been aware of what this means for me. I have strong creative and problem-solving skills but have difficulty identifying spelling or grammatical errors in texts, reading lots of detail, and concentrating on tasks for long periods of time. My brain can race ahead, which makes me good at coming up with solutions but I sometimes get frustrated with continuous debates as in my mind the solution is clear! 

Disabled people feel most disabled when they are not included or are required to navigate a world that isn’t accessible to them. The best way to support people with dyslexia is to create psychologically safe team environments and assess them on what really matters rather than getting hung up on small things that aren’t really important. If I got called out for every spelling mistake or sentence I wrote that made sense to me but wasn’t clear to those reading it, I would always feel I’m doing a bad job. 

Disability is diverse in nature and is often hidden. And sometimes disabled people prefer to keep it that way. People frequently assume that disabled people will automatically need help or adjustments to function, which is a mistake. In reality, most disabled people know how to best navigate the world on their own. Please never assume what someone needs; instead, help to create an environment that makes it easier for disabled people to ask for support if needed.

-Jo Portlock

"We must look at all the support a person needs and its timeliness and accessibility."
- Penny Mordaunt

A photo of Schuyler Michael in a black cowboy had smiling on a snowy farm in London, England

Preston Staudt
Vice President, Finance, Insurance and Healthcare,
LexisNexis Risk Solutions: U.S.

My wife Katie and I have two wonderful children: our 13-year-old son Liam and our 11-year-old daughter Lyla. As Lyla neared age one, she started missing balancing and standing milestones and struggled to communicate sounds such as “mama” or “dada." After many tests, we learned that Lyla’s cerebellum does not work properly. Several years later doctors determined that Lyla has Glut1 Deficiency Syndrome — a rare genetic disorder that affects the nervous system and causes a variety of neurological symptoms.

Lyla is an amazing, determined and inspiring child who works very hard. She’s on a strict ketogenic diet so we are the family that brings food everywhere! We have adapted our living space to help Lyla walk and installed a chair lift for stairs; her schools have made accommodations for her, too.

Like any kid her age, Lyla worries about tests and is curious about what her friends are doing, etc. But her challenges make her stand out, which can be stressful. It's sometimes difficult for other children to understand Lyla and inclusion can be an issue at any age. A child who is physically slower may be unintentionally excluded by kids or adults. Also, locations that do not accommodate mobility issues can create exclusionary situations.

Lyla has opened my eyes to the importance of working to include others and considering the world through the eyes of people with different perspectives or challenges. At work, I try to make sure I’m hearing the challenges that others face and listen if they want to share, and strive to create an inclusive environment where there are a variety of opportunities for everyone. I also recognize the importance of helping others who might not speak up but need support to be included. 

Lyla has a unique condition but I don’t think our situation is unique. She and her special-needs friends have taught me that we can always do more; no situation is impossible. I’ve spent many hours around kids giving more effort to go two feet across a room than I put in a week which is humbling. 

I’ve been with this company for more than two decades and it has supported my family on every step of our journey. Regardless of the situation ― consider other people’s situations and take them as seriously as your own.

-Preston Staudt

"All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual."
- Albert Einstein

Lisa Cook
Early Careers Business Partner,
LexisNexis Risk Solutions: U.K.

I live with an often-invisible disease called rheumatoid arthritis and for years I hid this from my colleagues for fear of it creating a stigma. LexisNexis Risk Solutions is the only employer I have felt comfortable enough to be open and transparent about my disability and I am proud to now be part of the Disability Employee Resource Group, helping to raise awareness.

I do not want to be defined by my rheumatoid arthritis, but allowances and adjustments do need to be made to support me. I have faced people saying, "Well, you don't look disabled," and this is just so disheartening. Having your makeup done and wearing nice clothing doesn't automatically stop you from suffering pain while trying to mask it.

The internal battle to work harder, to never be off sick, and constantly trying to exceed expectations, to prove you are just as good as anyone else is tiring and sadly, I have thought this way for years. I do still catch myself having this battle now but having children and taking time out on maternity leave has made me stop and reassess my perspective.

Our company's Diversity & Inclusion initiatives and the Employee Resource Groups have given me more confidence to speak up about my disability and try to make a positive difference for others.

Watch a video of Lisa talking about living with rheumatoid arthritis here.

-Lisa Cook

"Society as a whole benefits immeasurably from a climate in which all persons, regardless of race or gender, may have the opportunity to earn respect, responsibility, advancement, and remuneration based on ability."
-Sandra Day O'Connor

How to Help Foster Disability Inclusion

—     Listen and ask questions

—     Offer help

—     Never assume

—     Refer to people respectfully

—     Create opportunities for everyone to interact

—     Be an ally for people with disabilities

—     Educate yourself on the use of appropriate language

—      Respect differences and be patient - we are all humans!

Our people are our strength.
We respect individuals and their contributions, and we are proud of the levels of diversity, equity, and inclusion across our business.

In 2020, LexisNexis Risk Solutions CEO Mark Kelsey established an Inclusion Council to focus on advancing our inclusion strategy and improving our diversity gaps.

Learn more about our commitment to inclusion and our Employee Resource Groups here.

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