In what way do talented people with disabilities find a place within organisations? And with what result? Should you make jokes about a disability? Pim Brouwers, Manager Diversity & Inclusion, talked to presenter Lucille Werner on this subject. “If you focus on talent alone the disability doesn’t matter.”

“I’m visually impaired but that has never been a topic of conversation at VodafoneZiggo”, Pim states. Matters were different for Lucille, who has difficulty walking: “I dreamt of becoming a TV presenter. In the first year I only worked behind the scenes. And once on television, a desk kept my legs out of view. People never saw me walking. It changed when I started presenting Lingo and the responses were numerous. The Netherlands really found it an issue to see someone with a disability so prominently displayed on the screen. Some said “Help that girl” and others found it scary.

Focus on disability
In the business world as well we find it hard to get used to colleagues with disabilities. “It already starts at the job application”, Lucille explains. “You actually wonder whether you should mention it as you’re scared to be judged on it, the way it happened to me when I was nineteen. I wanted to work in the hospitality industry but was rejected because of the way I walk. Joop van den Ende was my first employer who said that my disability could only be to my advantage. And that’s the way I see it today. You must not deny yourself. You are who you are. Furthermore, a disability helps you develop important skills such as persistence and creativity. You can keep on dreaming if you keep that in mind.”


Pim en Lucille

Social connection
“People can definitely believe in themselves but how do we ensure that the business world does the same?” Pim asks. Lucille: “That is indeed a challenge. Just look at the government’s job agreement within the framework of the Work Disabled Persons Act which states that no less than 125,000 people with a disability should find work in the business world by 2026. The chances are that they will not achieve that goal. The limited presence of people with a disability – in both society and the business world – is one of the most important reasons for this, I think. Unfortunately, it is a case of unknown, unloved. I believe that the more you see and work with colleagues with a disability, the more it will become clear that a valuable colleague could, indeed, have a disability. And the more opportunity this will provide for people with a disability.”

Inclusive of talent
A diverse and inclusive culture is one of the most important goals of our corporate social responsibility strategy People, Planet, Progress", Pim shares. “We want VodafoneZiggo to be a place of work where each talent feels at home. We’ve committed to that for the last five years and it has certainly had an effect. Having increasingly more colleagues with a labour challenge work for us, results in an increasing feedback of colleagues claiming that it gives them, as well as our organisation, many extras. Namely talented colleagues and, in most cases, an even greater working atmosphere. That is exactly what we’ve been aiming for.”

Achieving succes
“It’s a good thing that a large organisation such as VodafoneZiggo is so consciously engaged in this”, Lucille states. “Yes, albeit that at the start we really had a serious case of cold feet”, Pim adds. “We are a knowledge-intensive organisation in which achieving results is important. There was a fear that we wouldn’t be able to succeed that well with a more diverse team. Teams with disabled colleagues, however, find that they are more successful.”

“Disabled jokes”
Pim: “More disabled colleagues on the work floor automatically means that office jokes increasingly become par for the course. Because my vision is poor – they sometimes jokingly refer to me as arrogant because I don’t return the greeting if someone waves at me from afar. Do you find these kinds of jokes permissible?” Lucille: “I actually find them essential. Jokes break the ice and put people at ease. You obviously have to take someone’s feelings into account but I can certainly appreciate “Put your best foot forward, Lucille”. I think that jokes show that a disability is part of life, which means it has a place on the work floor as well.”

On Thursday 3 December, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Princess Laurentien entered into talks with known and unknown people with a disability, including presenter Lucille Werner and the Minister of Disability Affairs, Rick Brink. Pim Brouwers, Manager Diversity and Inclusion of VodafoneZiggo, joined in as well. The organisation of the meeting is in the hands of the Alliantie Digitaal Samenleven (Digital Society Alliance), which is a partner of VodafoneZiggo.

VodafoneZiggo Alliantie Digitaal Samenwerken

The living room conversation of Thursday 3 December, in which the meaning of inclusion and # RealContact was discussed for people with a disability, can be viewed below. (DUTCH)