This week’s blog post is about CEOs who are redefining what leadership looks like through disability inclusion and advocacy. This article includes an overview of CEOs with physical, visual, auditory, mental, learning, and neurodiversity disabilities. Enjoy!
Melissa “Echo” Greenlee is the founder of the company deaffriendly. The group aims to find, rate, and review deaf-friendly businesses. Greenlee opens up about the struggles people who are hard of hearing face in everyday life. She talks about the communication issues people face with businesses such as restaurants, coffee shops, post offices, doctor’s offices, etc. She wanted to change the game by creating a website that allows hard-of-hearing consumers to view a business’s accessibility before visiting. Melissa is just one of the many CEOs who are using their disability as a power to change the game of accessibility.
The major fashion icon, Tommy Hilfiger, did not know his struggles in school were due to his dyslexia until much later in life. He talks about how he failed miserably in school but felt too uncomfortable to ask for help. Today, he credits much of his success to his dyslexia because it made him look at design in a much different light than others. Hilfiger has taken an extra step in his work with the launch of “Tommy Adaptive”. This line is dedicated to making clothes that are sensory-friendly, easy to close, fit for prosthetics, and seated wear.
This past month Eric Roza the CEO of CrossFit opened up to his team and 14,000 gym owners about his recent absence from work. He shared this was due to this journey to seek treatment for his depression. Roza talked about how sharing his story is uncomfortable but will help destigmatize mental health issues. He encouraged his employees to seek appropriate treatment. CrossFit offers mental health benefits, short and long-term disability, and unlimited PTO to support employees’ needs. In addition to supporting their employees, CrossFit helps raise money for suicide prevention with CHAD1000x. CrossFit is redefining what leadership and support looks like.
John Marble is the CEO of Pivot an organization dedicated to assessing, training, and engaging with companies to learn more about neurodiversity. They hope to change the way corporations support and understand neurodiversity. Aside from his business, he was appointed to run the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) under President Barack Obama. He became the first openly autistic White House staff member. During his time there, he worked on various agendas such as workforce development, veterans hiring, and innovation. His efforts in and outside of the White House changed the narrative for leadership within government.
Michael J Fox is a well-renowned actor known for his role as “Marty McFly” in the Back to the Future movie series. At the age of 29 and at the peak of his career he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Fox stayed optimistic as he continued acting for an additional 7 years. He opens up about his struggle to tell people that he was living with Parkinson’s. His career took a turn when he quit acting and created the Michael J Fox Foundation. This foundation was created to gain awareness and raise money for Parkinson’s research. The foundation has funded $1 billion in research programs. He has since returned to acting and has incorporated his condition into his roles. To this day Fox keeps working and fighting every day for future generations for Parkinson’s patients.
Caroline Casey is a blind activist restlessly trying to bring about global change to business inclusion. She is the CEO of The Valuable 500 which is aimed at rewriting what business inclusion looks like and what the best practices for companies are. She is also the CEO of the Aisling Foundation/Kanchi. Kanchi is an elephant Casey rode for 1,000 kilometers across India to gain awareness for and promote disability inclusion. Casey is an award-winning social entrepreneur, Ashoka Fellow, and Young Global Leader of World Economic Forum. She won’t stop driving until disability inclusion is at the forefront of business initiatives.