The Abilities of People with Disabilities
I was born in 1961 to a big, loving Italian family in the Finger Lakes area of NY State. My brother Joe was born in 1963. Joe was born with an extra chromosome - technically giving him a "disability" known as Down Syndrome. My grandparents immigrated to the US from Italy and had no formal schooling; my parents were not educated past high school. They had the wisdom, though, to view Joe's extra chromosome as a gift, never once describing it to any of his five siblings as a "disability". Being only two years older than Joe, we grew up together and did everything together. I simply looked at Joe as my sibling, my playmate, my bunk bed-sharing roommate - not as my sibling “with a disability.” While he may not have been able to do all of the physical and mental things I could do, I learned so much from Joe about humility, respect, forgiveness, resiliency, being positive … I could go on and on. But, let me share Joe's abilities, some of which I attribute to his extra chromosome...his "gift" as my mom and dad described it.
ABILITY TO PROVIDE PERSPECTIVE
Joe has been my sounding board for as long as I can remember. When I started to feel others had more than us when we were kids, Joe would remind me that no one had more love than the Frappollis and what more could we want? When I thought Calculus was going to ruin my life at Cornell University, a phone call to Joe assured me my life would survive Calculus! When I was stressed about leaving "corporate life" to go make baseball cards for a living, Joe said, "You love baseball, why wouldn’t you do that?" Joe is a calming voice of reason in this crazy world in which we live.
ABILITY TO CONNECT & INSPIRE
Everyone who meets Joe feels better about themselves and leaves with a brighter outlook on their day. I can't explain it, have pondered it for years, and now just simply accept it. He draws people to him, connects in a deep and personal way, and somehow inspires them to see the best rather than focus on the struggles. We should all be so gifted.
ABILITY TO INNOVATE
Joe works full-time for GW Lisk, an engineering and manufacturing company that makes solenoids, valves, sensors for all different types of industries. Joe has a quality assurance job - he checks components to ensure they are working properly prior to distribution. The machine he works on allows him to test two components at a time. He thought it was moving too slowly. He drew a picture of how the machine "could be easily changed" to test three components at a time. The supervisor was impressed, brought Joe's picture to engineering and the machines have now been retrofitted per Joe's hand drawing!
ABILITIES IN THE WORKPLACE
When I entered the workforce in Human Resources, I never considered a person with a disability to be any "less qualified" for employment. My perspective has always been to figure out what job might fit that person best, just as we would do for all employees or candidates. Joe was my "lens" into disabilities and taught me to look deeper, and see the gift that each person has to offer.
I am especially proud to work at JPMorgan Chase, where we are committed to hiring and developing individuals with disabilities, and provide an opportunity for all of us to be engaged in this space via the AccessAbility business resource group. I started the Midwest chapter years ago and saw an immediate impact as managers became more aware and more engaged. With our new Office of Disability Inclusion, the firm is putting even more resources behind this community. I encourage everyone here to get involved—it will help make our great firm an even better place.
The lessons I’ve learned from my brother should serve as a lesson for us all — that people with disabilities can add as much value at work as anyone else...and, sometimes, even more!
About the author: Carlo Frappolli is Head of Talent at JPMorgan Chase. In this capacity, he is responsible for Talent Management, Leadership Development, Succession Planning and Management Training. Carlo has been with JPMorgan Chase for 19 years. Carlo’s civic involvement includes Bridge-2-Rwanda, the National Down Syndrome Society, Children’s Memorial Hospital, the Seneca/Cayuga Counties ARC, and the American Liver Foundation.