For the second year in a row, Viasat has been recognized as one of the “Best Places to Work for Disability Inclusion” by the Disability Equality Index. The index is a joint initiative by the American Association of People with Disabilities and Disability:IN.
The DEI is a national benchmarking tool that considers a company’s disability inclusion policies and practices, including employment practices, culture and leadership, community engagement and supplier diversity — among other areas.
“We’re honored to have received the ‘DEI Best Places to Work’ designation for the second year in a row,” said Kaitlin Tate, Viasat’s director of learning and development. “Our score and the way in which we approached the survey demonstrates our one-team culture. It was truly a collaboration and partnership that involved input from multiple teams across the organization.”
Viasat maintained the same score it had in 2019, even as it continues to seek ways to make its facilities and processes more accessible to those with disabilities.
“Fostering an environment rich with opportunity and anchored in respect for each and every member of our team is at the heart of who we are at Viasat,” said Melinda Kimbro, chief people officer at Viasat. “We’re proud to be recognized by Disability:IN and the AAPD as a company committed to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace where employees with different abilities have equal opportunities to learn, grow and achieve great success throughout their careers. However, continuing to identify opportunities to improve our inclusion practices in ways that will positively impact the accessibility, engagement and sense of belonging all employees feel in our work environment, is a key priority.”
Viasat Ability Alliance
The 2020 recognition doesn’t surprise Viasat recruiter Patty Scott, who helped found the company’s Ability Alliance and is visually impaired.
“From the time I interviewed on, my team was always great,” said Scott, who’s been at Viasat for seven years. “They discussed only whether I was right for the job and had the qualifications for the core responsibilities; that I was disabled wasn’t even factored in.
“And the nice thing is that now, the talent acquisition team and our hiring teams are not just open to hire people with disabilities who apply, they’re looking for opportunities to bring people with disabilities into Viasat.”
The facilities team also has a lead role in Viasat’s efforts, assessing the company’s many campuses and making changes to better accommodate people with disabilities. Those adjustments run the gamut from positioning coffee makers so that people in wheelchairs can easily reach them to, along with other Viasat teams, ensuring the Careers page on Viasat’s website meets the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
The guidelines are part of the World Wide Web Consortium, the main international standards organization for the Internet. The recommendations address ways to make online content more accessible for people with a wide range of disabilities.
Far from putting the efforts on hold, the pandemic has instead prompted new discussions about meeting the needs of all employees. Most of Viasat’s employees are working from home, which presents some potential added challenges.
“Everything’s being done via video conferences and phone; how do we ensure that someone with a hearing impairment could still be engaged in the meetings? Are we exploring the idea of adding closed captioning?” Scott said. “Onsite, if people have to wear masks, how are we accommodating their disability if they read lips? For those with mental illness, how do we ensure they’re feeling safe and protected in these uncertain times?”
To help address some of those issues, the Alliance will lead a company panel on mental health as part of the Viasat Learning & Development team’s Resilience in Ambiguity series. The virtual series began in May and lets Viasat employees hear from coworkers around the world about how they’re managing the new normal of the coronavirus crisis.
Viasat and the Ability Alliance will continue their work to improve conditions for those with disabilities through the pandemic, and long after.
“This is our situation now,” Scott said. “We have to decide not only how we’re going to navigate this point in time, but stay focused on how we can continue to be a resource for people.”