Since 1965, Lifeworks has been a champion for inclusion. It was founded by families who recognized the importance of advocacy and removing barriers for people with disabilities to be part of the community. As a leader for disability inclusion, Lifeworks is committed to self-determined support, careers with competitive wages, and developing innovative opportunities that enhance lives.
“In order for the Work|Life exhibit to successfully raise awareness, we knew we needed the participation and support of our local employers,” explains Ashley Oolman, Lifeworks’ disability and inclusion consultant. “Our longstanding relationship with Securian Financial and their willingness to learn and innovate alongside us made them a natural fit for the exhibit opening.”
Securian Financial and Lifeworks are celebrating a 25-year relationship this year. In addition to being a long-time financial supporter, Securian Financial currently has seven full-time employees who are supported by Lifeworks — one of whom recently celebrated her 20-year anniversary with the company.
Facilitating employee engagement
In conjunction with the Work|Life exhibit, Oolman moderated a panel discussion, “Engaging in Disability Inclusion,” with members of Securian Financial’s disability workforce and their advocates. The discussion was open to all Securian employees and covered:
- What has worked and what hasn’t in the broad scheme of disability inclusion
- The impact of the Lifeworks-Securian Financial collaboration
- Ideas for continued inclusion efforts
- How to be allies with employees who have disabilities
“Disability inclusion has made Securian Financial a better place to work,” says Rachel Lytwyn, who chairs the company’s Lifeworks Advocates Committee and participated on the panel. “It fosters our culture of collaboration and helps everyone connect.”
Citing the disproportionate unemployment rate for those with disabilities — only 40 percent of working-age adults (ages 25-54) with disabilities are employed, compared to 79 percent of working-age adults without disabilities1 — the panelists also discussed the impact employment has for people with disabilities.
“Gainful employment provides a sense of purpose,” says Jodi Utech, another panelist and Securian Financial’s manager of corporate document services. “As an employer, it’s on us to be open to hiring people with disabilities and identify ways we can help them build on the skills they have.”