Children's hands holding up puzzle pieces to the light

Bright Blue: Employee Resource Network Brings Abilities to Light

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Do you know someone with a desire to learn American Sign Language? Have you thought of the role assistive technology will play in increasing and maintaining literacy?

The Bright Blue Employee Resource Network (ERN) answers these questions and offers a platform to heighten awareness and understanding of differently abled individuals in the workplace and our communities.  With more than 380 members, the Bright Blue ERN is facilitated by the Blue Cross Diversity and Inclusion department and led by employee volunteers. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan created Employee Resource Networks to bring together employees based on their common interests and diverse points of view.

“Diversity is not only about a culture, value or belief system, but recognizing the many dimensions and perspectives that each individual brings to the table,” said Sondra Pedigo, vice president of Health Care Value Performance & Execution at Blue Cross and executive sponsor of Bright Blue. “And, when we appreciate and value unique abilities and perspectives, we are more successful.”

Today, one in five adults has a disability, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So, there is great value in creating an open dialogue about how to best create an environment to support people with physical and mental differences.

Started in 2017, Bright Blue isn’t just a group for employees living with seen and unseen physical and mental conditions. It also serves as a vehicle of support for caregivers, friends and family members.

The group hosts activities, learning sessions and community outreach events to promote an inclusive culture at Blue Cross where all employees have an opportunity to contribute and make a difference.

For example, Bright Blue hosts monthly sign language classes.

The group also presents learning opportunities with guest speakers such as Dr. David Winters from Eastern Michigan University’s Department of Special Education. Winters specializes in dyslexia and reading-related learning disabilities. During one Bright Blue event, he demonstrated applications and equipment that people struggling with vision impairments and learning disabilities can use to read.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan was recently awarded for a successful collaboration between Michigan Rehabilitation Services, Human Resources and the Bright Blue ERN that created a disability awareness training program for leaders and employees. The collaboration was recognized with the 2019 Michigan Rehabilitation Services Outstanding Business Partner Champion Award.

You see, fostering an inclusive culture is more than a top priority; it’s part of the fabric of Blue Cross.

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Photo credit: Pornpak Khunatorn

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