Inclusion Exchange: Jie Ming Loo Ortiz
Masters of Accounting student & GGU Disability Ambassador
Recently I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with a disability advocate and inclusion specialist Shayn Anderson. Shayn is an internationally acclaimed author, speaker and trainer on disability and inclusion. Shayn speaks from the perspective of someone who has a disability and has experienced discrimination based on his disability first hand.
Shayn works in the Bay Area providing trainings to “enhance diversity by creating a business environment that embraces full inclusion.” (www.diversityinclusion.com)
Jie: Tell me a little bit about yourself Shayn.
Shayn: My name is Shayn (pronounced Shawn) Anderson and I am a proud member of both the disability and Native American communities. I have a wonderful life with an amazing wife and awesome teenage daughter and my family splits time between our two homes in Elk Grove and Point Richmond. I love to travel and two of my greatest passions are playing poker and anything with superheroes. I love helping others and feel most satisfied educating others through the gifts of laughter and storytelling.
Jie: What challenges have you had to overcome as a student and as a professional?
Shayn: As both a student and a professional, the main challenge I have had and continue to face is other people’s perception of my disability which can sometimes cause some discomfort of bewilderment. I have a neurological disorder, dystonia, which I like to say is a “cousin” of cerebral palsy, as well as an accompanying neck disorder, retrocollis, for which I get Botox injections in my neck every three months. I have movements (tics) primarily in my neck and head and I am often underestimated on what I can do. As I previously mentioned, I love educating others and shattering stereotypes. Also, because I have a different tonal quality and cadence to my voice, people can sometimes initially assume I am not intelligent and sometimes even think I am intoxicated which can be a bit of an annoyance.
Jie: Can you tell us about some of your personal achievements?
Shayn: I have been lucky enough to work in both the private and public sectors and been involved in the field of disabilities for over twenty five years. I received my BA degree from University of the Pacific and my MS degree from San Diego State University. I have written and published two books, The Disability Factor and Taking Pride In That Which Sets Us Apart. I have owned two successful businesses. My first business was Occasions Wedding and Parties where I was a wedding and party planner/consultant. My current business is Diversity Inclusion, which, as the name implies, is a diversity and inclusion firm with a specialty in the field of disability. I have travelled internationally and spoken to many different audiences. Within the area of disability, my two areas of specific expertise are youth with disabilities and mental health disabilities.
Jie: What advice do you have for students with disabilities?
Shayn: Don’t see your disability as a weakness or liability, be proud and see your disability as a strength and asset which sets you a part from others, gives you insight and specific cultural traits, and should be a selling point to potential employers. You may simply do things differently and have different abilities. Don’t fool yourself though, you will probably have to work smarter and harder than individuals without disabilities all your life but in the end it is worth it. You’re not entitled and people don’t always owe you because of your disability. Build and refine your social skills and be positive as it will serve you well. Be kind to others even when they don’t deserve it; there will always be ignorant people and think of it as an opportunity to educate. Always be ready to shatter the myth that people with disabilities have a chip on their shoulder, want pity, and think society owes them. Enjoy each and every moment in life to the fullest, take pleasure in the little things, laugh, and don’t take things in life too serious all the time.
Jie: Can you touch on the subject of disclosure of disability in the job search? (e.g. Importance of, when to and any advice for students making that choice)
Shayn: When and if to disclose is always an individual and personal choice which can be tricky. If your disability is an obvious one like mine, I say to go ahead and disclose. But within disclosure, talk about (frame) your disability as an asset and a positive trait while covering any potential reasonable accommodations you might need. It may be important to set the potential employers fears at ease. Likewise, if you think you are going to need a reasonable accommodation and your disability is invisible, I believe it might be better to discuss the need for accommodation and disability early on so you get it out there and there are no surprises later. However, in my opinion, I wouldn’t disclose if it is not needed and if it is needed, disclose only after you think it may be the right time. For example, if it is not necessary, I may not disclose on the application or when arranging an interview, but I may disclose when interviewing. Don’t make a hard and fast rule for every situation, trust your instincts and make it a case by case decision.
Jie: Many times in the discussion of ‘Diversity & Inclusion’ in the work place people with disabilities are left out of the discussion. Can you touch on the importance of including individuals with disabilities in that ‘Diversity & Inclusion’ in that discussion?
Shayn: In my Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) work, I often see disability as an unrepresented and underrepresented dimension of diversity. I feel it is extremely important to include disability in the diversity conversation. It is a fact that 1 in 5 individuals will eventually join the disability community. In my book, Taking Pride In That Which Sets Us Apart, I have a chapter titled, Disability: The Red Headed Stepchild of Diversity on the subject of disability not being included as an equal partner in D&I. I believe the exclusion of disability could be because of lack of understanding, discomfort, and value. It could have something to do with the other dimensions of diversity not seeing disability as being worthy of having a seat at the D&I table. However, I would assert that we share many similarities with the other dimensions of diversity, which includes a rich history of discrimination and oppression.
Shayn Anderson’s book The Disability Factor: Five Simple Tools to Better Serve and Counsel People with Disabilities can be found on Amazon.com
For ideas OR questions, please feel free to contact Jie Ming Loo Ortiz at the following email address: