Leading with Perspective at Crayola

Oct 28, 2019 10:20 AM ET

Thanks to Kate Matelan, search engine optimization content associate at Crayola, she and her fellow employees look at their “playground” in a new way.

Matelan, who is paralyzed from the chest down, helped Crayola become more aware and accommodating of people with different ability levels. Seeing a need to share her story, she developed and led a lunch and learn event on Crayola’s Pennsylvania corporate campus during National Disability Employment Awareness Month last October to educate co-workers about people with disabilities.

“Our leaders are committed to continuing a safe and inclusive environment where employees know their voices are heard and they are making a difference for our organization,” said Stephanie Yachim, talent acquisition manager, Crayola.

At the lunch and learn meeting, Matelan explained how she became paralyzed from injuries sustained in a car accident on her way to preschool more than 25 years ago. Describing how she lives her life on wheels today, Matelan spoke about workplace and building accessibility experiences, staring during interviews, proper communication techniques, and steering an open discussion on disability awareness.

“In order to be more inclusive of all abilities and make change, we have to understand everyone’s vantage point and get out of our comfort zone,” said Matelan. “This opportunity gave people real-world examples of positive and difficult workplace experiences and solutions, including interactive activities such as eating lunch and taking notes with their nondominant hands, and free-flowing Q&A for open and honest discussion.”.

Matelan’s advocacy efforts began even before the lunch meeting. Shortly after she joined the company in June 2018, she collaborated with Crayola to make improvements for those with disabilities, including accessible bathroom stalls and soap dispensers for women, new automatic doors and new evacuation procedures for employees who need assistance.

By championing universal design, Matelan encouraged the organization to make updates that benefit not only people with disabilities, but any employee or visitor.

Matelan urges others to put the person before his or her disability and take into consideration the entire scope of a situation, which can aid in planning events, making decisions and even communicating. These continual efforts make a big difference.

“It creates an impact greater than you think for the person and for the company’s inclusion efforts,” Matelan explained. “However, applying a new understanding is an ongoing process and we must continue to learn, grow and change together.”

Read more in Hallmark’s Caring in Action Social Responsibility Report.