Sonat has difficulty walking due to cerebral palsy. He says diversity and inclusion are about more than mobility. It’s about being proactive and open.
Diversity and inclusion encompass many aspects beyond making buildings accessible to people with mobility issues. For me, diversity and inclusion are about everyone being more accessible to each other.
Guidelines and policies are important of course, but what really brings diversity and inclusion to life is direct personal experience. So let me share two very contrasting experiences.
As a young man, I allowed disability to end my dream of becoming a physicist. I had won a place at one of Turkey’s best universities to study physics, but it was on a hill. My first-year lecture halls were close together, but the following year they were so far apart that I didn’t have enough time to get from one lecture to the next. Being young and shy, I dropped out rather than ask for the help I needed.
Fast forward several decades. My line manager at Roche was planning a fun team-building exercise involving a tour around Basel on Segways. Knowing it’s impossible for me to balance on one of these two-wheeled machines, he arranged a rickshaw so I could join in. It was actually my first outing on a bike. I had a wonderful time!
I share these two examples because they are about so much more than mobility. For me, they illustrate the power of personal experience.
My colleagues and I know each other well. By this point, we don’t need to be told how to better include each other, it’s completely natural for us. Colleagues make me feel part of the group, whether it’s a one-off rickshaw ride or walking to the cafeteria at my slow pace. It’s a team culture that ensures no one is left behind.
How have we achieved and maintained such an open and inclusive team? I think it’s the culmination of many factors, not least the nurturing provided by our different line managers over time. In the 12 years I have been a part of the team, people have come and people have gone, but the mindset remains the same.
So my message is simple: be open and proactive at a personal level. If you need help, ask for it. If you see an opportunity to help someone, don't wait to be asked.