Jill Bradley was a fierce advocate for people with disabilities long before she started working for Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC). As the mother of a young adult with autism spectrum disorder, she has dedicated much of her life to supporting him and the broader disability community.
That’s what led her to join In-Abled, a business resource group (BRG) at HCSC that champions inclusion for people with disabilities by increasing awareness and providing educational and professional development opportunities for employees.
“I’ve got two running tracks in my life: Advocating for my son at home and advocating for a larger cohort of people with disabilities through my job,” says Bradley, who serves as an HR business partner supporting the Market Enablement division and chairs the Illinois chapter of In-Abled.
Bradley has helped expand the group’s focus beyond people with disabilities, establishing a support network to address the needs and concerns of their caregivers. Those support systems become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the temporary closure of schools, day cares and other institutions that often act as primary or secondary caregivers.
“The pandemic was sort of serendipitous because by virtue of everybody having to be at home, more of a spotlight was put on caregivers and all the work they do to support the disability community,” Bradley says.
In-Abled’s Illinois chapter has also ramped up its collaborations with other BRGs in recent years, hosting educational seminars and other events on overlapping topics of interest. The group recently organized a presentation with the PRIDE BRG focused on people in the LGBTQ community with disabilities.
“It’s difficult enough to be part of one community that historically has been excluded by society, but that negative experience is exacerbated when you belong to two or more of these groups,” Bradley says.
In-Abled has embarked on a long-term project to make the digital collaboration tools used at HCSC more inclusive of employees with disabilities. During the companywide rollout of new software, the group worked to ensure closed-captioning capabilities were embedded to make the technology accessible to employees with hearing impairments.
“We want everyone at the company to remember to be as inclusive as possible with members of their team who may require special accommodations,” Bradley says.
The software rollout inspired In-Abled members to draft a formal statement outlining HCSC’s commitment to digital accessibility and inclusion for employees with disabilities. The statement pledges to equip all employees with the tools they need to do their best work every day, including video conferencing with auto-generated captions and instant messaging with dictation and audio playback capabilities. It was approved by company leaders and unveiled during an In-Abled event on Oct. 12.
“Having a formal digital accessibility statement in place showcases our commitment to people with disabilities and making sure that everyone at HCSC has a voice at the table,” Bradley says. “It’s a big win for us both as a BRG and as a company.”
In addition to supporting employees with disabilities, In-Abled offers a real and meaningful way for HCSC to stand with its members in the disability community.
“We strive to bring opportunities and visibility to people with disabilities outside the company,” Bradley says. “Our hope is that the work we do with In-Abled makes it easier for them to use their benefits and have the same access to the outcomes we want for all our members.”