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Inclusion and Diversity

It’s estimated that approximately 10% of the world’s population has some type of disability. This makes people with disabilities not only the world’s largest minority, but also one of the most influential – the community is estimated to have an annual purchasing power of $220 billion in the US, $25 billion in Canada and £80 billion in the UK alone. That’s more than enough money to buy more Facebook stocks than the company can offer.

There is a clear business opportunity for companies who can create solutions to address this market in the race for top talent. There is also a clear advantage for companies who are able to attract, retain and develop employees with disabilities. There are a few companies out there, like Cisco, that just get it.  They are the ones who have been investing the time and resources to support and address this community to tap into top talent resources and open up new market opportunities.

I was really proud, as an employee of Cisco, to read about a colleague of mine, Lisa Lawley, Cisco’s senior global events program manager, in a recent article “Great Potential For Today’s Technologies” in the Careers & the disABLED magazine. The article detailed some of the challenges Lisa has faced since diagnosed with macular dystrophy and how Cisco has empowered her to continue to achieve her personal and professional aspirations.

Cisco supplies Lisa with ZoomText Screen Magnifier software for her laptop and a desktop closed caption television (CCTV) for reading printed materials. “I wouldn’t be able to do my job without ZoomText for sure, because it allows me to see whatever I need to see in as large a text as I need. I can’t see the whole page at once, but I can move around the screen to see different parts of it.”

Lisa explained,

“what has kept me here is the way Cisco has dealt with my disability. Not only did the company accommodate my needs so that I could stay productive, it has evolved company-wide programs, such as the employee resource group (ERG), Cisco Disabilities Awareness Network, to allow employees to network with other employees sharing common interests or challenges.

Cisco also tries to be ‘a disability confident’ company by bringing disability into our products. Some people in our group don’t have disabilities, but it’s part of their job at Cisco to make our products more accessible. And others have both—they work in accessibility and also have disabilities, so they bring that to the table.”

Cisco’s emphasis on people with disabilities is an integral part of the company’s overall effort to educate employees on the value of diversity and the benefits of creating an inclusive culture that embraces different backgrounds, approaches, and experiences. Ensuring everyone can come to work and contribute their unique talents and perspectives is one of the best ways we can bring the Cisco motto to life—“Changing the way we live, work, play and learn” (hear hear to that!)—and improve our overall business.

For more information on Lisa and how employees from Cisco, AT&T and PepsiCo are empowering all their employees to be their best selves and driving innovation, please go here.  There is also more information available on Cisco accessibility products and Cisco Employee Resource Groups, in particular: Cisco Disabilities Awareness Network (CDAN) and Veterans Enablement and Troop Support (VETS).

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1 Comments.


  1. As an employer whose industry needs the specific talents that only people living with the disabilities can provide, it has been an eye-opener to realize that very few companies understand that this demographic works harder, is more loyal and has a unique capability to problem solve that is not shared by the rest of the working population. At WeCo, our management staff’s thought has been, “Fine–send them our way!”

    It is pleasing to see that other companies are discovering the IMMENSE “win” side of employing talented people, who also live with disabilities, and are now focusing on what they bring to the work table, instead of what they don’t.

       2 likes

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