Our Values In Action
Opening Doors Through Disability Mentoring Day
The doors kept shutting before Bernadette Krause ever had an opportunity to pass through.
With a degree in media studies and production from Temple University, Krause had the skills for a wide range of entry-level jobs in her hometown of Philadelphia. But despite applying for more than 100 positions leading up to and after her 2016 graduation, she never moved beyond the telephone interview phase.
The reason seemed more than obvious to her. Potential employers grew skittish, she says, when she told them she has spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, which necessitates full-time use of a wheelchair and workplace accommodations such as speech-assisted computer technology.
“As soon as I disclosed my disability, the people screening my interview would find a way to end the conversation,” Krause says. “I felt that I was being discriminated against, although I had no way to prove it.”
Then, in October 2016, she learned that Comcast would be hosting its Disability Mentoring Day in Philadelphia. Part of a national effort coordinated by the American Association of People with Disabilities, the annual event promotes career development for people with disabilities through hands-on job exploration and ongoing mentoring relationships.
Krause didn’t hesitate to sign up. After all, she figured, it would give her a chance to make new contacts while learning more about Comcast NBCUniversal and what it might have to offer. She wasn’t assuming it would lead to a job, but the fact that the company was investing in people with disabilities seemed reason enough to give it a try.
“I was so used to having companies just write me off. As cliché as it may sound, Disability Mentoring Day was a ray of hope,” Krause says. “Companies can claim to be inclusive, but Comcast NBCUniversal was acting on it and not just saying the right words to build their brand.”
Krause and about two dozen other mentees spent a full day at the Comcast Center, participating in resume reviews and mock interviews, meeting with senior leaders in one-on-one networking and mentoring sessions, and learning about the company’s overall strategy around diversity and inclusion. She especially clicked that day with one of the senior talent recruiters, and the two stayed in touch over the following months.
Fast-forward to June 6, 2017, Krause’s first day on the job as a Community Manager for Talent Acquisition at Comcast.
In advance of Krause’s first day, the company wanted to ensure it had the right accommodations in place, such as widened bathroom stall doors for easier access and automated hallway doors on the 34th floor, where Krause would be located. And before she arrived, the Human Resources department trained Krause’s soon-to-be coworkers and building security personnel about her service dog, Gusto, who would accompany Krause to work each day.
“This was the first full-time service animal at our headquarters, so we wanted to make sure that Bernadette’s colleagues understood that he was a working dog, which meant that they shouldn’t just come up and pet or play with him,” says Kristie King, Senior Manager for Workforce Diversity who specializes in disability inclusion.
The black Labrador even got his own employee badge, imprinted with his photo and name, to reinforce that he, too, had a job to perform.
Krause says Comcast went “above and beyond” with the accommodations the company provided. The bathroom stalls, for example, were already manageable in their original state, she says, but the company’s facilities staff widened them to make things easier for her. Team members walked her through the company cafeteria and made adjustments so she could reach some of the products she would typically want. They gave her a computer and phone with speech-to-text programs she already knew how to use. And her managers offered her a flexible schedule, enabling her to work from home when inclement weather might otherwise hinder her ability to get to the office.
About 18 months after she started, Krause changed positions, joining Comcast’s Corporate Communications Social Response Team in a job that built on the skills she honed in college and in her first stint at the company. She has since participated in the annual Disability Mentoring Days — but now as an employee helping to mentor others with disabilities — and she intends to take on a more active role in the MyAbilities Employee Resource Group for people with disabilities and their allies.
Born not long after the passage of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, Krause recognizes that corporate America has come a long way over the last three decades. But she has seen first-hand the long way society still has to go.
She loves her job — and she takes none of it for granted. “I am so grateful to Comcast,” she says. “They were the only company willing to take me on, with all of my needs and accommodations, and they let me prove that I’m capable, willing to work hard, and able to be a beneficial employee.”
We are building a workforce that reflects the demographics of the disability community.