A company is nothing without the people that comprise it. That is why FirstBank fills its ranks with intelligent individuals with strong moral compasses, and prides itself in hiring and training a diverse employee population. This is at the center of the bank’s “people-first” mentality.

Contrary to this philosophy is the inaccurate belief that employing individuals with a disability can present unwanted and unnecessary hurdles that aren’t worth the effort. We’re here to tell you that it’s simply not the case.

Last March, FirstBank had an open position for an IT Business Analyst. The Blind Institute of Technology (BIT) approached us with an excellent candidate for consideration.

Eric Arther, who was born seeing-impaired, came to FirstBank with an MBA from Colorado State and plenty of experience working for large companies in IT, project management, and business analytics, with the ability to lead cross-functional teams. He was hired into a position that requires him to create process maps and other visual explanations that help our technical teams understand business requirements.

With our ideal candidate in the door, the next step was to set him up for success by creating a work atmosphere where he could thrive. Making accommodations takes time and can be challenging to implement, but one important takeaway is to have open and honest feedback throughout the process to avoid any pain points. Here are a few tips to consider when working through accommodations:

  1. Have a discussion with the employee to determine what they need to complete the responsibilities of the position.
  2. Specific needs vary from person-to-person and building-to-building, so keep an open mind to what the solution may need to be.
  3. Be flexible and continue to assess and adjust as needed to ensure employees are provided the opportunity to succeed.

Additionally, multiple departments were needed in the process of creating a conducive work environment for Eric. Facilities, Human Resources, and various IT departments from Security to Infrastructure, all played a vital role from day one. But the one piece of this puzzle that was most effective was the input, patience and insight from Eric.

“It’s not enough show up somewhere and say ‘accommodate for me.’ There needs to be a different approach where you say ‘let me teach you how to accommodate for me,’” said Eric, a FirstBank IT Business Analyst. “Whatever your disability may be, if you don’t push for what you need from an accessibility standpoint, problems arise.”

Blind Institute of Technology advocates for their candidates to reach relevant job placements, and works with companies to create the framework for employing persons with disabilities. For Eric, he found the BIT to be impactful in another way: how to be confident in owning his disability in interviews.

“I was once told that I had the ability to hide my disability in interviews, which I was doing, and I grew to really dislike that approach,” Eric said. “When I met Mike Hess [BIT founder], he taught me that my disability was the opposite of that and to paint my disability in a positive light. It’s ok to be visually impaired or blind. Go out into the job force and be prepared tell people that it’s your condition, and that it can be used as a strength.”

Eric’s current Manager noted that he has adapted other skills in response to vision loss. “Eric has excellent listening skills which makes him a very effective Business Analyst. He is able to quickly summarize information because he carefully listens to all participants in the conversation. Using recommended software, Eric is able to provide the critical visuals the team needs including flowcharts, graphs, and troubleshooting documents.”

FirstBank’s experience working with BIT was a positive one. We learned a lot through this experience and we are grateful to have gained a great employee, and now can share our experience with others.

“Companies who may be apprehensive should meet with Mike Hess, and understand that the value someone from BIT provides goes beyond their skillset,” said Shannon Wylie, manager of the Technology Talent Acquisition team. “It allows everyone to learn and grow, and to better understand it’s our differences that make us stronger.”

“The challenges in hiring a blind or visually impaired candidate from the BIT are miniscule when compared with the benefit that these candidates bring,” Eric said. “Not only is it possible and realistic to accommodate for the Blind/Visually Impaired community, it is also beneficial to the teams and organizations they work for.”

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