Abilities over disabilities

Portrait picture of Jeff Lichon (Picture: Dow)
For Jeff Lichon’s colleagues, his personality counts – not his disability (Picture: Dow)

With various employee networks, Dow is ensuring that all its employees are free to give their contribution. The Disability Employee Network DEN is one of them.

Jeff Lichon works in Michigan at the headquarter of Dow, as project specialist in the Public Affairs Development Program. For Jeff, who is a wheelchair user, to utilise all his skills fully, the buildings have been made wheelchair accessible. His work place is also adjusted; Jeff can comfortably work there. In his work environment, he is fully integrated and highly regarded by his colleagues.

Exemplary employment strategy

Neither the disability of Thomas Christen (cerebral palsy) was relevant to Dow for hiring him as a Business Development Analyst. Christen chose this job because Dow asked yet after the first interview with him what adjustments might help him at work.

His contribution to the integration of people with disabilities at Dow, Christen gives as Chief Executive of the Disability Employee Network (DEN) Zurich, Switzerland.

Barriers are removed

At the monthly meetings of DEN, various points are discussed on the topic of disability. Thus, for example, the evacuation plan has been adapted. With a new, internal emergency number, disabled persons can now directly request help in the event of an emergency. In addition, the caretakers were trained specifically for that.

For his extraordinary commitment to people with disabilities, Dow has even received the Disability Matters Award in 2010.

Benefit from the diversity

DEN is only one of six employee networks at Dow. In addition to the network for people with disabilities, there is also the Women's Innovation Network (WIN), the African-American Network (AAN), the Asian Diversity Network (ADN), Gays, Lesbians and Allies at Dow (GLAD) and the Hispanic Latin Network (HLN).

Why is it so important to Dow, to have to be represented so many different ethnicities, disabilities etc. among its employees? John Carton, Global Supply Chain Director and Consultant at DEN Global, points out an important aspect: "Diversity means creativity. This already existing potential needs to be used."

Dow campus in Horgen, Switzerland (Picture: Dow)
Dow campus in Horgen, Switzerland (Picture: Dow)

Wide operation focus

DEN does not only care about the integration of its own employees but also tries to ensure that the issue of "disability" becomes known to all the employees at Dow. More than that, says Thomas Christen: "DEN exists to eliminate barriers, physical barriers as well as those that arise due to misconceptions."

Like that, a disability becomes an opportunity. "If Dow (using DEN) can eliminate the barriers, then we can reduce the disability or even eliminate it entirely," said Christen.

Also on an international basis and outside of its own four walls, Dow supports people with disabilities. For example, Dow is an official partner of the Olympic Games and promotes the Paralympics.

DEN sees these events as a chance to support other organisations, while promoting awareness for the needs of people with disabilities within Dow employees.

Another project was launched with the Foundation MyHandicap. With the help of the Applicants Workshop, Dow and MyHandicap aim to help job seekers to prepare themselves as good as possible for the application process, with regard to their disabilities. More information about the workshop can be found here.

Text & Translation M. Plattner 08/2010

Pictures: Dow