"… That Never Occurred to Me"

October 05, 2018
Jennifer Lowney, Head of Corporate Communications

As a person who drinks a large iced tea every morning, I've been very attuned to the recent campaign against straws. I want to do my part to protect the environment, but I like using straws.

Given my vested interest in the topic, I occasionally follow the debate in the news and on social media. Recently, I came across this NPR article that told the story of a dad who had to leave a trip to the zoo with his son, who has motor planning delays, because the zoo had a no straw policy and his son was unable to have a drink of water on what was a very hot day. People with certain disabilities, like this child, need straws to avoid aspirating liquid in their lungs.

And I thought, wow – that never occurred to me.

Here I am wondering if my iced tea will stain my teeth if I don't use a straw, and there are parents who can't enjoy a day at the zoo without thinking through even the most mundane thing like how they'll give a thirsty child a drink of water.

My point here has nothing to do with straws, of course, and everything to do with the need for greater awareness about the adjustments and accommodations needed by those with disabilities, as well as those who love and care for them. All too often, our society puts the onus on those in need of an accommodation to advocate for themselves or a loved one, which is not easy to do. Most of the time, it's not because we don't care or because we aren't willing to support them. It's usually because it just never occurred to us.

But we can become more aware, make sure that we are accommodating individual needs, and help our colleagues who need adjustments understand the support available to them and how to access it. Making progress in these areas is central to the work of the group I'm extremely proud to co-lead with Mark Carawan -- Disability Affinity: Enabling Diverse Abilities.

We're going to work with others across the firm to sustain an inclusive culture for individuals with disabilities. Every colleague at Citi, including those with disabilities, should understand that we want them to participate fully in our community and our business -- and if they need support in order to do so, we are committed to providing it.

Mark and I are enthusiastic about the work this affinity group will do. The journey to get where we want to be will take time and challenge us. But we're committed to continual progress.

And just like the other affinity groups, every colleague has a role to play in enabling those with diverse abilities to thrive at Citi. Let's start by reducing the number of things that simply never occur to us -- The New York Times offers free access to a selection of articles and commentary about the lives of people with disabilities here. Please read a few, and I think you'll agree we all have more to learn.

Sign up to receive the latest news from Citi.