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Employee group improves work for colleagues with disabilities

December 2, 2020

By Rachel Carpenter

Elsevier Enabled plans to celebrate #IDPWD, marking two years of this global employee initiative for awareness and accessibility

Caption: Internationally recognized disability advocates and social media influencers Shane and Hannah Burcaw (aka “Squirmy and Grubs”) will speak virtually for Elsevier employees at an event hosted by Elsevier Enabled for International Day of People with Disabilities December 3. (Photo by Hannah Burcaw)

When Elsevier Senior Software Developer Michael Goddard(opens in new tab/window) started a contractor role 13 years ago, he was sent an online course to learn about the company. Unfortunately, it was not useful to him as he strived to get up to speed on what was expected of him.

There was no closed captioning and no transcript. When my manager questioned why a colleague hired at the same time had adapted (better), I had to explain it was because I had no way of understanding the training course!

Michael, who is based in Dayton, Ohio, had lost most of his hearing following a childhood illness, opting for cochlear implants after further deterioration of his hearing a few years ago. Like Michael, disabled employees often face barriers when systems and processes are not designed to support their accessibility needs. These obstacles can keep people with disabilities (PWDs) from achieving their employment potential. The employment rate for PWDs in the UK was just over 50 percent, according to 2019 labor force survey(opens in new tab/window). In the US, that percentage was a shocking 19.3 percent in 2019(opens in new tab/window)!

Michael Goddard and his son Liam Goddard, a radiologic technology student at Kettering Medical College.

Elsevier Enabled

In the image above: Self-described “wobbly comedian” Francesca Martinez (second from left) speaks on a panel with Elsevier and RELX colleagues after her performance to celebrate International Day of People with Disabilities in 2019 at Elsevier’s London Wall office. Joining her on the panel (from left) are Dr Marcia Balisciano, Director of Corporate Responsibility for RELX; Min Xiong, Head of Content UX, LexisNexis Legal & Professional; Elsevier CEO Kumsal Bayazit; and Bridget Kendrick, Chief Marketing Officer for ICIS.

Two years ago, a group of Elsevier employees founded the Elsevier Enabled Employee Resource Group to raise internal awareness about disability, promote disability-friendly working environments, and provide recommendations on how Elsevier can recruit and retain more people with disabilities. Since then, the group has grown to 100 members on four continents. To date, Elsevier Enabled has:

Celebrating #IDPWD virtually

Tomorrow, December 3, Elsevier Enabled is hosting Elsevier’s second annual celebration of International Day of People with Disabilities(opens in new tab/window) with a virtual event featuring internationally recognized disability advocates and social media influencers Shane and Hannah Burcaw(opens in new tab/window) (aka “Squirmy and Grubs”).

Also to mark the day, RELX’s SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) Resource Centre has created a special issue dedicated to IDPWD(opens in new tab/window) that features a collection of articles on disability from Elsevier’s research publications.

Perhaps more importantly, Elsevier Enabled has kept the employee conversation about disability inclusion going through employee stories and other communication channels.

“Disability has many faces and is often misunderstood or even feared,” said Simon Helliwell(opens in new tab/window), Elsevier’s Executive VP of Human Resources. “Creating inclusive, engaged and agile teams is … a key to our success. We consider it vital to educate ourselves and support inclusion and diversity efforts in our daily actions.”

Simon Helliwell

While support from management is crucial, ultimately, this is a grassroots, employee-led initiative. As Elsevier Enabled founder and co-chair Simon Holt(opens in new tab/window), a Publisher at Elsevier, explained:

We are all responsible for inclusion and diversity; it’s not just an HR thing. Cultural change is slow and happens one conversation at a time. We need to have lots of conversations.

While there is still a lot of work to do, there is no doubt that this commitment to inclusion and growth makes Elsevier a better place to work.

Simon Holt

As for Michael, much has changed since he arrived here 13 years ago:

That’s what I love about this company. The people I have worked with have gone above and beyond for me, and so I do the same. Working with good people who actually care about you makes all the difference.


Rachel Carpenter


Rachel Carpenter

Manager, Culture and Transformation