Episode 33 – The Case for Including the Disabled – with Denis Boudreau
We have a declared global intent to be more inclusive of those with disabilities as expressed in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Despite being created in 2006 and with 183 countries on board, there is much work to do.
Furthering this work is my guest today, Denis Boudreau. Find out how Denis connected his own feelings of being marginalized as a young boy to empathy and compassion for the disabled community and why there is such a strong business case to create more inclusive organizations. He also shares his perspective on what is getting in the way of leaders from taking action and what to do about it.
Denis Boudreau has been bringing his talent to inclusive design in the online world since the early 2000s. Today he is a consultant, trainer, coach and speaker helping organizations create truly inclusive digital experiences for everyone, especially those who are marginalized. Denis founded Inklusiv Communication to work with leaders who want to develop inclusive communication skills online or from the stage, and remove barriers for the up to 40% of the population who struggle with technology.
00:03:06 What brought Denis to what he does now
00:06:10 Acts of compassion for others
00:15:08 UN Convention for Rights with People with Disabilities
00:21:53 Why businesses should consider the disabled
00:28:14 What is holding leaders back?
00:31:51 Asking others what they need to work best
00:37:33 Is it safe to speak up?
00:39:26 Navigating around our disabilities
00:42:35 Denis’ 15 Keys
A blind person using a computer - credit
Colorblind test - credit
Police car chase - credit
Map of Quebec - credit
#weare22percent - credit Clare Kumar
Group of disabled people - credit
Someone in a wheelchair grocery shopping - credit
Someone talking to HR - credit
ASK Model - credit
Learn more about and follow Denis:
Highly sensitive executive coach and productivity catalyst, Clare Kumar, explores the intersection of productivity and inclusivity continually asking how can we invite the richest contribution from all. She coaches individuals in sidestepping burnout and cultivating sustainable performance, and inspires leaders to design inclusive performance thereby inviting teams to reach their full potential. As a speaker, Clare mic-drops “thought balms” in keynotes and workshops, whether virtual or in-person. She invites connection through her online community committed to designing sustainable and inclusive performance, the Happy Space Pod. Why? Because everyone deserves a Happy Space.
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Audio and Video Editing: To Be Reel
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Song Credit: Cali by WatR. from Pixabay
Denis Boudreau: All of a sudden I was surrounded by people whose lived experience was being left out, and it radically changed me in that sense. And I sort of reconnected with all these things from the past and it started making sense.
Clare Kumar: You're listening to episode 33 of the Happy Space Podcast and today we're looking at how organizations can be more inclusive of persons with disabilities with accessibility consultant, Denis Boudreau.
You're listening to episode 30 of the Happy Space Podcast, where productivity meets inclusivity and everyone gets things done. Hello, I'm Clare Kumar, highly sensitive executive coach, speaker, And your host. Studies show that diversity leads to better business outcomes, so doesn't it make sense to invite everyone's richest contribution?
Yet too many people are invited to burn out or opt-out, and we are squandering talent. On this show, we'll explore a two-part solution. Part one, cultivating sustainable performance, the individual design of work and life to preserve our energy so we can keep contributing and to designing inclusive performance the design of spaces cultures of products and services which invite the richest participation I hope you enjoy these conversations and find inspiration and encouragement for everyone deserves A Happy Space.
Way back in 2006, the world shared its intent for the inclusion of those with disabilities through the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. There are now 183 countries on board, but still so much work to do. That's why I'm thrilled to have today's guest, Denis Boudreau, join us today.
He's been bringing his talent to inclusive design in the online world since the early 2000s. Today, he is a consultant, trainer, coach, and speaker helping organizations create truly inclusive digital experiences for everyone, especially those who are marginalized. Denis works with leaders who want to develop inclusive communication skills online or from the stage.
He also removes barriers for the up to 40 percent of the population who struggle with technology. Find out in this episode how Denis connected to his own feelings of being marginalized as a young boy to empathy and compassion for the disabled community, and why there is such a strong business case to create more inclusive organizations.
He also shares his perspective on what's getting in the way of leaders taking action and what to do about it.
Denis Boudreau, welcome. It's wonderful to have you here and I wanted to start with asking you, what brought you to the work that you're doing?
Denis Boudreau: It's a long story, I guess, like most people. So I come from a long background of design and development, web development, web design, and I used to work as a developer, basically leading a team in the late 1990s.
And one day the project manager came to me and said, “We just won this contract to redesign the websites for a hospital here in Montreal, and part of the ask is that we build a website that blind people will be able to use. Please figure this out because we have no idea what data even means”, and neither did I but my role back then was to figure out why things weren't working as we were figuring out how to build the web really.
So I took on the challenge. and discovered really quickly that it was actually possible to do that. So in the summer of 2000, basically, I discovered that you could create websites for blind people. And that led me on a path of researching how you could actually do stuff like that, and that led me to discovering a million things that I didn't know about disabilities and people who have disabilities and that radically changed my life.
It radically changed the trajectory of my work and gave a lot of meaning to a job that I otherwise found to be very shallow in a lot of ways. And so for the last 23 years or so I've been dedicating my life basically to finding ways to make the online world more accessible, more equitable to people who have disabilities, people who are marginalized by technology or people who are just getting older and are struggling with technology for one reason or another, which, you know, is all of us, ultimately.
So that's how I came to do what I do. I mean, I've spent the last 23 years. advocating, teaching, auditing, assessing, consulting, coaching, speaking on inclusion in the digital space. And that led me to expand that particular interest of mine into areas of leadership, among other things, and communication to help leaders and managers and organizations figure out how they're going to tackle that particular beast because it's so happens that this is mandated by law in Canada and United States and a lot of other countries, organizations actually have to make sure that their content is usable by people who have different types of disabilities.
And, you know, most people have no idea how to do that. Most people are where I was 23 years ago with that particular thing. I just got lucky that someone asked me to figure that out way before it was a thing. And it's led my path ever since.
Clare Kumar: Thank you so much. My head is going into all kinds of questions.
The first one is your personal experience that helps you relate to the need for people who are being marginalized to be included and I know in your book that you write a little bit about that. I wonder, did that drive you to feel that empathy and then turn into acts of compassion in your work to be able to identify with what feeling left out means?
Denis Boudreau: Yeah, for sure. I think it was always somewhere deep within me, but I'd lost track of that a long time ago as a young adult, you know, I was very selfish like a lot of people and you know, really thinking about what I wanted, what I needed, but I come from a background of I do come from a background of exclusion in a way. You know, I'm colorblind. So, extensive experience in being very young being made fun of because I can't tell what colors are or tell colors apart.
For instance, growing up, I have been told many, many times that I would never be able to do a particular job because I wasn't able to tell colors apart. You know, colorblindness is not a huge problem in life in general, but I have a significant limitation with color perception. You know, like most kids, I wanted to be a policeman at some point and people were like, you'll never be able to tell which car you're chasing.
‘Cause you want to be able to let colors like, okay, so I can’t do that. And then at some point, I wanted to be like an electrician and they said, well, no, you can't tell the wires apart. And, you know, I was fascinated as a kid about, you know, movies where you would have like SWAT teams diffusing bombs, for instance.
I said, I would never be able to do that either because you wouldn't trust me with cutting the orange wire or the green one, because I can't really tell. It would be a little dangerous. So, you know, even though it was never something particularly dramatic, it was always in the back of my mind that there are things that I can't do.
There are things that people would not allow me to do because of my limitation. That was very, very deep within me. And you know, I ended up studying other things that then weren't related to colors and knew everything was fine.
Clare Kumar: But I just, can I pause you there for just one second? Cause I immediately went to, well, why can't we have a pattern on the wire or why can't we have something else besides color? So that you could actually do it. We've defaulted to color. It's cause it's probably the quickest way to differentiate things.
Denis Boudreau: I mean, you bring up an excellent point. You know accommodations that we use all the time in web design, for instance, colors are awesome. It's great. It conveys information, but when it does, if you support that color with some other visual cue, then it makes it that much more inclusive of people. So it's a very logical and a great solution to a problem that is otherwise related to color perception. But like I was saying this, like all of these things that I had experienced in the past and, you know, as a young kid as well, I remember I used to live in a very white neighborhood and, you know, as summer, I was probably like 9 or 10, I think a black family bought the house right in front of mine, and I remember that most kids would not want to play with Brian. That little kid was exactly my age and somehow, for whatever reason, I decided that he would be my friend and we hung out together for years and he was my best friend and, through me making him my friend, then he became friends with other people, people who accepted that he was different.
And who want to be friends with him regardless of that. So I've always had these things inside of me of like going for the underdog or trying to, you know, support or help those who are left out a little bit. So that was always there, but I lost sight of all of that as I was growing up. And then when I discovered this thing about building websites for blind people, it kind of caught up to me in a way, I guess.
And as I started discussing these things, because like I was saying, I was responsible for figuring out why things don't work in technology at the business, the company that I was working with. So working at rather. And we had an internet and I was sharing some of these thoughts on a daily basis on the internet.
And you know, that was basically blogging before blogging was actually a thing that was like 2001 or so. And at some point, I decided that I would just share that on a website because we were starting to do these things and started to get feedback from people all over the world in France and in Switzerland, you know, in Europe where people speak French because I was doing the whole thing in French and in Quebec.
And the people that were reaching out to me were people that had disabilities and saying, Oh my God, what you're talking about is exactly what I'm feeling or what I'm experiencing. Do you have an idea for this or that? Like people were all trying to figure out what you do with technology, your computers.
I mean, remember like it's late 1990s, early 2000. Yeah. The web was around, but a lot of people were not used to it yet. You were still getting your internet on a CD-ROM from AOL or things like that back then. So it was new for everyone. And I made a ton of friends that had disabilities.
All of a sudden I was surrounded by people whose lived experience was being left out. And it radically changed me in that sense, and I sort of reconnected with all these things from the past and it started making sense. And I guess in a way that's why I got led into that particular direction, because there was all that prior experience that I had always felt without really knowing why. But that's kind of why it is what it is for me today.
Clare Kumar: Yeah. And that's such a powerful connection. And I think if we can all look back, we've all been excluded from things. And I think maybe I'm just making a connection for leaders today who like this DEI thing, this is just extra work for me to go back into that lived experience and pull out an experience where you as a leader felt left out.
And use that as a point of connection to say, well, actually, I do need to do something about it. okay. I want to come to that question in a second, but I already had another one that popped in my mind when you were speaking earlier. We were talking about the fact that this is a law to respect a disability and be inclusive in many countries, ADA in the legislation underneath the federal legislation. And I've jumped up recently to look at the UN Convention for Rights with People with Disabilities and 183 countries, I think, have adopted this intention, which I think was 2006. It sort of started to come into being and then countries have come on and come on.
It strikes me, Denis, that this is an international document, and then every country has its legislation and then there's jurisdictional legislation. And in that UN human rights document, it talks about disability and it talks about impairment as well. And it struck me that it's more looking towards the social model of disability where your participation in society is limited.
Then there's a problem rather than you've got a diagnosis and therefore we need to give you an accommodation. So I say all that just to provide a little backdrop for listeners to understand it's a little murky out there. What's your perception on the intention that the UN convention set? And how things are being interpreted and where we might be on this curve to being fully inclusive. Because I have some thoughts, but I'm really interested in yours because you've been really in this space for a long time.
Denis Boudreau: So, 2006 is when the document first came out if I remember correctly indeed. And back then in Canada, for instance, we already had accessibility standards at the federal level.
So those have been around since early 2000 as well. The actual international guidelines for accessibility date back from 1999. So, you know, very early on, we had something in Canada that the federal government was looking at in terms of ensuring some level of inclusiveness for folks with disabilities in the online world.
But it was only around 2012 or so that it really became something more concrete at the federal level. Before that, in 2005, the AODA was adopted. So in Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was adopted. With this very ambitious vision of creating Ontario as a fully inclusive province by 2025.
But that's like a year and three months from now. I guess you can't because we're nowhere near that at this point for sure. Back in 2005, the Auxiliary Standards, as we know it internationally, were not the ones that we have today.
So we didn't have this very clear set of deadlines or milestones to hit. But as of 2008 that international standard got sort of upped into their second version, and then that started creating milestones for Ontario. 2014 was the first one, 2021 was the second one of those major milestones for what kind of accommodations you have to have on your website to make it accessible to people.
As these years were going through, other provinces also adopted different initiatives or guidelines or principles or laws in some cases along the same lines as Ontario. So most of the country at this point either has a very specific law that speaks to accessibility for the provincial government itself.
And some of them, including Ontario are also getting into the private sector and saying that you also have to abide by these laws as a business, especially if you're a business with over 50 people, for instance.
Clare Kumar: Yeah, there's a size parameter.
Denis Boudreau: Yeah, it's a size parameter, but there are also financial penalties that range depending on the size of your business and things like that, and whether or not you do business outside of your province and everything.
So we have all this structure in place here. That is all basically found on the same principles as what we had in the U. N. Convention Document of 2006. All of this is also very much influenced by the United States, where we have the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2019 here in Canada, we, all the efforts at the federal level to really create an accessibility policy or framework, sort of snowballed into the Accessible Canada Act.
So as of July of 2019, we have that, which is very similar to the ADA, the American with Disabilities Act in the United States, in the sense that it's requiring the exact same level of conformance to international standards. It's the expectation that any federal entity or any organization under federal jurisdiction to abide by these rules.
And there are six different major categories where it applies, such as telecommunication, transport you know, workplace and everything like that. So all of these things have created an environment, not just in North America, but around the world in most developed countries where there is a definite goal to become more accessible as a society to not leave anyone behind to make sure that everyone has fair, equitable access to opportunities and potentially outcomes as well.
Clare Kumar: Yeah. It's interesting. I had a brush with this early this year with a course that I was taking and you're familiar with the challenge. I wrote about it because I never thought I'd be writing about a watermark being a human rights issue. And it's interesting, I connected with a human rights lawyer in the U.S. over LinkedIn, and he took a look at what I was talking about, and he said, it's absolutely a human rights matter. And so did two organizations in South Africa, because I thought this organization that I took the program with was out of South Africa, and I thought, perhaps there's a different context in different countries.
And by all means, the same guidance existed there. But I ran into a smaller company, so perhaps federal legislation there wouldn't apply, and so it's at the whim of the leader to decide, well, I don't feel like being inclusive, I perceive there's a business risk to doing this, so too bad for you.
Denis Boudreau: Yeah, well, I mean, it's very likely that they are bound by some kind of obligation, but they're unaware of it. And as a result of that, don't feel like it's something that they should care about. A lot of people actually think about, you know, disabilities and accommodations for people with disabilities as a bit of an edge case.
And like my main clients are not like that, no big air quotes here, so I'm not going to bother. But if only they understood the business case around digital inclusion, I mean, they'd be all over that thing for sure, because no one in their right mind would not want to tap into that untapped market if only they understood how big of a market that is in the first place.
Clare Kumar: So can you help our listeners understand how you describe how important it is from a business perspective? To not ignore the market of people with disabilities, which is ever-increasing as our population ages.
Denis Boudreau: Very true. I'm happy to. It begins by understanding what we mean by disability, right? So we know in Canada, 22 percent of the population self-identifies as having at least one disability. So right off the bat, one out of five of us. Some conditions particularity require a certain type of accommodation. If you do nothing about that to begin with, if you just sort of dismiss the entire thing, you're basically saying 20 percent of your potential clients, you're not really interested to do business with them or they don't matter enough for you to do that.
Clare Kumar: And you know, interestingly in this case that I was talking about in the spring, there was an actual polling of the people in the program and 19 percent of people had the same concern I did, and the decision was to dismiss them absolutely blatantly, dismiss the need.
Denis Boudreau: And it's fascinating to me because what you're describing here is this, you know, this perception that you're going to sort of shoot for your average users, you're going to go for your average customer, your target audience, whatever that might mean.
But in reality, no one ever really fits that profile because we all have a little something. That makes us not completely fit in that particular description that you would think of your ideal customer. For instance, when you have 19 percent of the folks in your class who agree with you and, you know, the teacher or the trainer, whoever that person was, chooses to go with the other 81%, it kind of makes sense when you think about it from that perspective. Or 81 is obviously bigger than 19, but If they only would've agreed to what you were asking and removed that watermark, then a hundred percent of people would've used it. Like, why move away from that group of people? Makes no sense to begin with. So when you look at it from the perspective of disabilities, you know, 20%, 22% in Canada, 27% in the U.S., roughly 20, 21% in Europe in general, that percentage is pretty much the same everywhere. It ranges by a couple of points, but it's roughly the same everywhere. It's 1. 3 billion people around the world, roughly. So, I mean, the math adds up, whichever you look at it. But it's not just people, it's also purchasing power.
When you look at, you know, the average after-tax disposable income of Canadians with disabilities, According to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, it's 65 billion a year. When you think about the U. S. market, if you actually want to do business with the U. S., it's 504 billion a year. It's half a trillion dollars every year that is controlled by people who have disabilities.
When you think about things like that, and you're thinking, would you want to cut yourself away from a market of half a trillion dollars if you take Canada and the U.S.? Most business owners would say, actually, I'd like to tap into that if you don't mind. Thank you.
They won't because they never even get that far because all they think about is we don't have any clients who are blind. Why would I bother with this? And the other part that's important to understand when it comes to why disability is much more prevalent than we realize is that, you know, 80 percent of disabilities are in fact invisible.
So it's easy to spot someone in a wheelchair or someone with a service dog, for instance, but you never know unless people tell you that they're colorblind like me or that they have, you know, that is the first thing that I'm going to be going over is in terms of your anxiety issues or that they have a learning disability or that they have ADHD or that they're on the autism spectrum, for instance, or hearing loss, low vision. I mean, all these different things you can't really tell. And if you don't accommodate for those, these folks are going to go elsewhere. If you don't serve them properly, they're going to go to your competitors and you, some of those competitors are picking up on this and they're making real tangible efforts to be more accessible.
They're getting all that business that others are not getting as a result of that. So slowly but surely leaders are starting to understand this. And then also with the rise of DEI considerations, businesses, and workplaces are trying to be more welcoming and inclusive of folks who have disabilities.
Because what you realize is that when you have a diverse workforce, you have also a diversity of perspectives and ideas and ways to look at fixing a problem. You get a lot more innovative possibilities available to you because not everybody thinks, feels, and sees things the same way.
So you benefit from this. And most accommodations out there, the average cost for accommodation for someone with disabilities, like 500 to get them started. So some of them are a little bit more complicated, but most of them are almost free. So it's not as expensive as people think.
And as long as you provide people with a work environment or a job description that fits their capabilities, these folks are going to bring you a lot of value as well, like any other resource would but we're just afraid to, to even try it in the first place, which is why. People with disabilities are largely underemployed as opposed to people who have disabilities.
And that is true, you know, in the workplace, that's true in education, that's true in the university or college settings, for instance, like that's true everywhere. And advocating for these things and advocating for the potential that these folks have and what they can bring to society is also part of why we do what we do.
Clare Kumar: Yeah. I liked how Lisa Whited put it, she was on the podcast as well and she talked about leadership fear of managing expectations. You know, I thought that really described what I anticipate well is that leaders are used to this medical model. If you've got a diagnosis, we can get you an accommodation and just go to HR and they'll sort you out. But this is far more nuanced than that. So what do you think is behind the leadership reticence to actually dive into this and say, what can I do?
Denis Boudreau: Well, ignorance and you know, fear of the of the unknown is a huge driver in there. I mean, most people are much more concerned with their bottom line. And having to report at the end of every quarter every month to their shareholders, for instance, or their leadership. So that is the priority like short-term management is really what drives a lot of our businesses. So that certainly explains part of it. Generally speaking, I believe it's just ignorance and you know, I don't mean that in a negative way.
If you don't know about something, you don't know about something. But organizations that actually decide to embrace disability inclusion and pay attention to what it brings them to realize that that diversity of perspectives really makes a huge difference and, you know, the loyalty that it builds with your workforce is also something that's important and how people connect together and the ties that they create and the learning experiences that come from that.
Both from the perspective of people who have disabilities, but also those who don't have disabilities, you know One of the biggest challenges that I think we face is the fact that it's very much an us versus them kind of mentality but how many people really take the time to understand what it's like to live with that particular condition, whatever that might be.
And you were talking about empathy before and raising awareness, it's very easy to dismiss or ignore something you know nothing about, and we all have a million things to think about. And we all have a thousand Netflix shows to watch. I mean, we have other things that are priorities, right?
But when all of a sudden in your life, in your close environment, you meet people who are different than you, you have two options. You can either decide that you don't want to do anything with them, or you can welcome their differences into your life and learn from that. And I like to think become better as a result of that.
And when you do that, what you're doing is normalizing the differences. And the more they're normalized, the less we see them, the less we see them, the more they get embedded into everything that we do. And all of a sudden you have this much more inclusive environment to work in and more people can thrive because there's a sense of pride in that as well, that new people develop over time, knowing that we're doing something fundamentally good for folks, for our environment, for society in general.
Clare Kumar: You use the word embed there. And I just wanted to pick up on that because what I hear in all of this is tied to the ASK model that I talk about for leaders to adopt, which is, ASK stands for anticipate the needs your team might have, and it applies to yourself as well. It's a cycle of questions.
Anticipate what you need. Source them, suggest the solutions that are going to work, and then commit to better knowing all the time, better knowing, and that has to be embedded in the way you work. So it's not a once a year, I'm going to ask Denis how he's doing, and he'll give me the update. It's continually being in touch with the humans who are working together.
And so I just created something actually called the Happy Space Work Style Profile, which is a short six to ten minute questionnaire for self-reflection first to say, what do I need to work at my best? Not everybody even has been asked what environment and conditions invite you to perform at your best.
So this questionnaire is meant to be a tool for individuals and then also leaders to use with their team to actually invite that knowing in a collective way and share the information and then co-create and co-design how you're going to work together and to acknowledge the asks you're going to make the person who's in a wheelchair, the person who's hard of hearing, the person whose husband is going through chemotherapy.
Because caregiving is, you know, all of the things that can cause us to reprioritize work like the pandemic did or how we work, those things are still happening all the time. And we don't seem to have a construct in the work world to say, I need to actually pay attention to all of that because everyone's going to understand reprioritizing work for an immediate health emergency, for a house that just got flooded, for a climate crisis of smoke and you can't travel.
You shouldn't be on the road now if you don't have to be. There's so many things that come into the way we need to design things. I thought we need some help here. I don't think we're particularly good at having these conversations. Is there anything that you've noticed that helps leaders really step into this knowing and making it a safer place to actually disclose?
I mean, it took me seven years to disclose that I have MS publicly. I just kept it super quiet for a long time because I was afraid, I was afraid of repercussions.
Denis Boudreau: Any kind of backlash really? And yeah, there are many things. I mean, we could talk about this content that I've been creating around keys to inclusive leadership.
I work with 15 different keys that help leaders really build this inclusive mindset and inclusive workplace. And all of that begins with the ability to understand disabilities, like really understand what that means and become familiar with, you know, like how many people are there and how many people are there in my own place of work.
Most people when you ask them, they have no idea how many people actually have disabilities. And when they ask their folks, most folks would never even say it exactly for the reasons that you mentioned, fear of repercussion, fear of backlash, fear of being seen as less than, losing privileges, and it all comes down to a matter of trust.
The environment does not create enough trust for people to want to disclose these things so they hide them and by hiding those things, they probably struggle more than they should because they could ask for specific assistive technologies or accommodations, but they won't do that out of fear of being singled out.
They experience, you know, stigma and prejudice and discrimination all the time. These things are typically very normal. People don't think about them. People don't even know that you have that disability. So they might say things that are a little insensitive and you receive that.
And even though you can't really do anything or say anything, I mean, it still hurts somewhere inside you. So when these things are happening regularly, it's just a reminder that this place is not a place where you feel safe. So when your leadership decides all of a sudden that they want to do something about DEI and they ask you in a survey, “Hey, we'd like to know many of you have this disability so we can do something about that.”
The last thing you want to do is say, Oh, I have MS for instance, the last thing you want to do, so the result is typically that. These well-intentioned leaders want to do something, right? But the way that they do that is not the ideal way. And therefore what they get in their survey results is that very few people are disabled or have disabilities or have particular conditions.
And so they conclude that they don't really have anyone in the organization that does. So why bother or why do anything about that? And that does two things for me. The first thing that it does is, it obviously creates this false sense of we don't have anything to do here, and you know, nothing happens, and you know, that's bad enough, but there's another consequence that is a lot worse, I think, which is that if you have a disability, and you know, you've been hiding it more or less successfully for years, and all of a sudden, there's this conversation about that, part of you is going to be a little excited, part of you is probably going to be a little sarcastic about it, but you know, part of you is going to be excited that maybe it could change.
But you're not ready to disclose that yet. So you don't say anything, maybe you don't fill out the survey, but you saw the survey. You know that there's something that's brewing there. And then nothing else ever happens. So what that tells you is that, okay, they really don't care about this. You're in part responsible for not having disclosed or having brought it up yourself. But there's a good reason for you not doing that. There was never anything that was done in that in that workplace to make you feel like you could or even should. Or was it worth it?
Clare Kumar: As I just interviewed Stephen Shedletsky about speak-up culture, he says, two things need to be at play. Is it safe? And is it worth it? And you're exactly describing, well, what was the point? There was no value to being uncomfortable and potentially putting a target on my back. So why would I?
Denis Boudreau: I just disclosed that I'm dyslexic and everybody knows it now and nothing is done about that. No one's offering me any different types of ways to prepare for a meeting. People still send me these five-page briefs that I don't really want to read or that I have a hard time reading.
Nothing has really changed, but now everybody knows about this, so what did I win in there? And you know that's super damaging. And instead if you as a leader, if you commit to making some changes, like very subtle, like there's nothing super complicated, but a lot of subtle little changes like, you know, just speaking to demonstrating offering opportunities for leadership positions, people who have disabilities, making sure that you have representation in different areas so that people can recognize themselves. Like all those and many other things are all ideas that you can put into practice to slowly change the culture and make people feel like, Oh, you know what?
Maybe I could speak about this now because I noticed so and so has gotten a promotion and we know that they struggled with mental health issues, for instance, or that they have ADHD and, you know, like it's becoming something that we accept more. The very first time that I talked about being colorblind as someone who was designing websites, people freaked out.
Clare Kumar: And I was going to ask you that because as you were talking about electric wires and police work, I'm thinking, wouldn't you need color for web design work, or how do you navigate around that?
Denis Boudreau: You, you do what you can. I mean, you play it safe in a lot of ways. I can give you an even worse example, well, it's actually a better example than that. Before I was working in IT and technology, I spent four years working in a factory in Montreal where we were designing men's suits. My job at that place was to select colors and match colors together. I did that very successfully for four years. I had no idea to this day what taupe means, but I know that between 1992 and 1996, taupe and navy worked fantastically together. That was the thing. All I needed to do was look at colors that other companies were choosing and matching because every single thing is organized there. So every color has a particular number and I would work through numbers.
Clare Kumar: You found another language to communicate. You found a coping mechanism.
Denis Boudreau: It's a very simple example, but it speaks to this idea that when you are constantly facing challenges because of your environment. So back to what you were saying about the medical model versus the social model. That medical model in this case would be, I'm the one with a problem.
Yeah, the social model would be the environment is the problem. So either way, as the person who actually experiences that thing, you have to be creative to find ways to work around the challenges. So in my case, that was it. I mean, I have a surprisingly high level of knowledge around hexcode values, for instance, hexcode values being one of the ways in which you can define a color.
I know colors by their six code values, as opposed to, you know, what they actually look like. If you tell me, you know, salmon as a color. Whatever that color looks like, never looks like the fish when I look at it. So, I mean, these things are very different to me, but if you ask me to build the color using code, I know exactly how to build that because I understand how that logic works. I had to teach myself that to compensate for the fact that I can't tell the colors apart. And people do that all the time.
Clare Kumar: When I hear a lot, what my hypothesis is that the cheapest and biggest accommodation is flexibility, and this is something that can be given at no cost that the price of entry to believe that flexibility is the solution, though, is a redefinition of fair from equality to equity.
And I think that's a particularly difficult thing to manage in a union environment where everyone's to be treated the same and there's a lot of procedures and beyond that, we grew up with an expectation that everybody should get the same thing. And I think if we can redefine fair, then we can step into flexibility, then we can step into some of these accommodations.
Like, Denis, you found a way to work with it, off you go. This is amazing. Or we can make more allowances for it. I want to finish with just coming back to your keys, I think you said 15 keys? Is that something that you've written about in a blog or is easily easy to share or do, how do we come to understand that a bit more?
Denis Boudreau: Well, I'm happy to share some of those links with your listeners after this. I am still writing extensively about it. So the whole thing started with a client request as it typically does. So I had to prepare a presentation for a group of clients on leadership and inclusion.
And I came up with you know what I thought Like I sat down one day and said, like, what are the key items and went to 15 and said, that's a good list. I'm going to stop here, and then basically wrote about that for a couple of weeks. So I have this blog, https://inklusiv.ca/info-hub/
And then in there is a lot of content articles and such tips and tricks around inclusion and all that good stuff. I'm happy to share that. So I wrote about these 15 different keys as a concept and built an entire presentation around that. And then what I'm doing now is every week I'm writing more extensively on every one of those 15 keys.
And my goal ultimately is to have the whole thing turned into a book. So that's kind of where I'm headed for early 2024 with that. but yeah, it's a roadmap. That's how I look at it. It's a roadmap, a blueprint to get from, you know, zero DEI to something that might actually be good.
And one of the main drivers for doing that in the first place was that I learned not so long ago that of all the organizations that do have a DEI policy or framework or initiative internally, only 4 percent of them actually include disability. And, you know, there are protected characteristics, so, you know, everybody is all over gender expressio, sexuality, race, religion, all these different things.
I mean, they're all very important things, obviously, but disability is the only group that spans across all these other groups. And yet, somehow, it's never included anywhere.
Clare Kumar: Yeah, I'm seeing the same thing, disability and now neuro inclusivity, the different way we think and especially invisible challenges, which we can just pretend don't exist.
I'm like, this is what I'm really motivated to speak about too. And I'm thrilled that you're bringing your years of expertise out in a way that can be shared with everyone. So definitely you've got to check out Denis writing and you'll see the links in the show notes for sure. Denis also has the book for speakers who want to be more inclusive when they're presenting.
And we'll continue to be a fount of knowledge. Denis, I'm so indebted to you for this enlightening conversation. And listeners, please show Denis some love. We'll be, of course, sharing everything in social media, we'll tag Denis. And if you hear this podcast, podcasting is kind of a lonely place, right?
Denis and I are having a great conversation, but we are thinking of all the listeners out there that this will touch, and we do love to hear from you. So please please let us know what you think, write a review or share some love back to us in the comments, particularly for Denis, great insights here into making the world practically more inclusive. It's beyond time for it and we're ready.
Denis Boudreau: Thank you for having me. It was an awesome conversation.
Clare Kumar: Thank you so much, Denis. You take care. Bye.
Clare Kumar: Thank you so much for listening. You can find all of the Happy Space podcast episodes over at Happy Space pod. com. I love learning what resonates with you. So please leave a comment about this episode over social media, or even better post a review wherever you tune in. And if you have an idea for a topic to explore or an inclusive action to celebrate, I would love to know more about it. It might even appear in an upcoming episode or an issue of the Happy Space newsletter. Please help me spread the word about people doing great things. After all, doesn't everyone deserve a Happy Space?