This post was co-authored by Maxine Tingley and Lorraine Moffatt. This is a story about Maxine’s daughter in honor of International Day of People with Disabilities.

As the parent of a child with visible and invisible disabilities, I worry every day for my daughter’s future — that she can feel accepted, be included, have friends, be able to do something worthwhile and ultimately be independent. Just like everyone else.

Although I was once told by a medical specialist that my daughter, Summer, would never be self-sufficient, lately I’ve felt more optimistic about opportunities for her. Summer recently joined the volunteering team for Parkrun, a weekly community event for runners of all capabilities, and every Saturday she enthusiastically gets herself there and does one of the jobs on the roster.

She is incredibly reliable, takes the role very seriously and loves teamwork and talking to the park runners and the other volunteers. I feel so thankful to the leaders of our local Parkrun who make sure each volunteer has a role they can do and know they are providing a valuable service to the community. I can see that my daughter has greater self-esteem since volunteering, and now she talks positively about her future.

With an estimated one billion people worldwide living with disabilities, I think we can all take lessons from the Parkrun organization and apply them to our workplaces — they reduce perceived barriers, they utilize mobile technology for the volunteers and runners, they treat the volunteers equally and with respect and they show their appreciation and celebrate the success of the volunteer team.

According to the Forbes article Creating a More Accessible and Inclusive Workplace for People with Disabilities, “If you are looking to be more inclusive… we must develop strategies for creating an inclusive culture that supports a diverse workforce.” Here at Blue Yonder, our strategy is to promote a culture of social acceptance and to collaborate to remove barriers at work. We strive to provide equal consideration to all qualified applicants without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or protected veteran status.

According to Blue Yonder’s Chief Associate Success Officer Nathalie Carruthers, our company is making progress. “In 2020, we saw a significant change in Blue Yonder globally, centered on equality and opportunity for all. With racial injustice, gender discrimination, workforce imbalances, deep-seated biases, stereotypes, and misconceptions speak to the importance of diversity and inclusion,” she said. “While we have made great strides, we must do more, and we must do better. This is just the beginning.” 

We all live and work with people with disabilities, some visible and some not. Whether it’s dyslexia, diabetes, asthma, anxiety, colitis, sight loss, mental health issues as well as people who have or are going through difficult health challenges — just because we can’t always see the disability, it doesn’t make the daily challenge less real.

As I look ahead to my daughter’s future, I know it is my responsibility — and the responsibility of us all — to shift our focus away from identifying people with disabilities by old medical labels and start to focus on each individual’s potential, dignity and human rights.