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Disability Inclusion In The Workplace: Gordon Boyes Of Concept3D On How Businesses Make…

Disability Inclusion In The Workplace: Gordon Boyes Of Concept3D On How Businesses Make Accommodations For Customers and Employees Who Have a Disability

An Interview With Eric Pines

Don’t be hesitant to work hard, really hard, you can only do it for so long. I worked very hard in my 20s and 30s and made sacrifices that might not be popular today. But I learned so much from grinding it out late nights and on the road.

As we all know, over the past several years there has been a great deal of discussion about inclusion and diversity in the workplace. One aspect of inclusion that is not discussed enough, is how businesses can be inclusive of people with disabilities. We know that the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. What exactly does this look like in practice? What exactly are reasonable accommodations? Aside from what is legally required, what are some best practices that can make a business place feel more welcoming and inclusive of people with disabilities? To address these questions, we are talking to successful business leaders who can share stories and insights from their experience about the “How Businesses Make Accommodations For Customers and Employees Who Are Disabled “.

As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Gordon Boyes.

Gordon Boyes is the CEO of Concept3D, the leader in virtual tours and interactive maps serving over 600 higher education institutions.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you ended up where you are?

I’ve been working on technology-related businesses my entire career, initially as a software engineer and eventually in management. I feel like I’ve been fortunate to experience a wide variety of jobs in all different shapes and sizes of companies. My journey with Concept3D was really about networking within the Boulder Colorado community. Two investors who knew each other suggested I should get to know the other and the rest is history. I fell in love with the product and the team.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Transparency. I’m a firm believer in communicating to the team the ‘why’. I seek to provide context and build an understanding for what we are doing at any given time. At Concept3D our policy is that anyone can attend any meeting.

Hire great people and support them. I’ve been fortunate to surround myself with amazing talent. We have been fortunate at Concept3D to have hired great people early in their careers and we have challenged them, seen them grow, and benefited from having their contributions for a sustained period of time.

Stay focused on delivering great results for customers and the team. We set a high standard. A great example of this is our production team at Concept3D. We want to make campuses look amazing and going the extra mile makes a huge difference. Our clients love it and of course, they benefit from all the positive feedback from their audiences from prospective students to fans experiencing game day.

Can you share a story about one of your greatest work-related struggles? Can you share what you did to overcome it?

I’d say the hardest part of leading a business like Concept3D is the people component. Providing a super compelling work experience and proposition for employees is something that I think about all the time, not only at a company level but at the individual level too. Tech employers have come to realize that providing early-in-career employees with outsized opportunities is the key to competing for the best talent and we participate in that equation in our own way. Earlier career employees keep me on my toes because they are always pushing the boundaries in a good way. If you look at how management has changed in the past 25 years, it’s the employees in their late 20s and 30s today that have driven the largest changes.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Concept3D acquired Localist, who specializes in events and calendaring solutions for higher education, at the beginning of September, so that has been incredibly exciting. We have been integrating the two companies and cross-training our go-to-market teams and see great opportunity to do more within our 650+ customer base and in the market overall.

Fantastic. Let’s now shift to our discussion about inclusion. Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience working with initiatives to promote Diversity and Inclusion? Can you share a story with us?

Concept3D products work for many use cases, but higher education is our bread and butter. It did not take long in the industry to understand the value accessible web solutions provide to higher education institutions. Specifically, our Interactive Maps highlighted this early on. Campuses needed the ability to display accessible information on maps. Be that accessible parking lots, accessible entrances, and all the way to accessible walking routes and directions, lactation rooms, gender-neutral restrooms, and so on. While our journey with accessibility started with what people can see, it quickly expanded to making sure it can be accessed by users with assistive technology.

Accessibility is an ongoing journey for Concept3D and for all technology vendors, and we have taken many steps along our journey to make maps, tours, and events products that can be used by anyone. The journey will continue as the landscape, technology, and our products evolve.

This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have an inclusive work culture?

At Concept3D we believe we are better as a company when we are open and inclusive. We better relate to and deliver for our customers, we hire better, we are better partners, and the list goes on. Over the past year, we have prioritized open dialogue, provided training to help drive that dialogue, as well as created an employee-driven DEI committee. Our approach as a company extends seamlessly to the solutions we offer and how we engage with our customers and the market. No matter what someone’s abilities are, where they came from, or how they access information, all people deserve and need the ability to utilize something as powerful as web-based experiences. Concept3D helps empower businesses to provide inclusive experiences in their web-based products (maps, tours, and events).

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what this looks like in practice? What exactly are reasonable accommodations? Can you please share a few examples?

Reasonable accommodations basically mean modifications that allow people with disabilities to get the necessary information to understand or perform the required activity/action.

For example, on our Interactive Maps, you can get directions from a start point to an end point. Those points are marked with icons that are colored (green for start and red for end, like a traffic light). However, those icons also have words on them, start and end. Color was not used alone as the single identifier for which point starts the route. That way someone who is colorblind can understand that on a similar level to someone who sees the green and associates that.

Another example is parking locations. It is not enough to just identify where people can park. Someone in a wheelchair should understand where they can park and get an accessible route (no stairs, elevators, or steep grades) to a building as easily as someone who can take stairs or park farther away. Therefore, accessible parking lots and spaces should be identified on a map.

Aside from what is legally required, what are some best practices that can make a business place feel more welcoming and inclusive of people with disabilities? If you can, please share a few examples.

  • Identify safe spaces for marginalized individuals, like gender-neutral restrooms and lactation rooms.
  • Solicit, listen to, and act on feedback. Create space for open dialogue.
  • Use resources and guidelines at your availability, like WCAG 2.1 standards for web accessibility in your digital products.

Can you share a few examples of ideas that were implemented at your workplace to help promote disability inclusion? Can you share with us how the work culture was impacted as a result?

I’d prefer to give credit and acknowledgment to our customers we serve. Our client success team actively engages with our 650+ customers and we consistently hear feedback on how our focus on accessibility makes a difference with the students, employees, vendors, and visitors that frequent the campuses we support with interactive maps. We are proud to support the culture and spirit of inclusivity at campuses across North America. Whether it is the ability to provide wheelchair-accessible routes or the ability to easily find gender-neutral bathrooms we support our customer’s commitments and ability to support inclusivity in critical areas.

This is the signature question that we ask in many of our interviews. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started My Career”? .

  • Be patient from a career standpoint, be a sponge early in your career, and pay really close attention to great managers. I remember early in my career viewing everything through the lens of promotion and upward mobility with little regard for what I was accomplishing and learning.
  • Take calculated risks, lots of them, and put yourself out there. Some of my most rewarding career accomplishments came from being a “hand raiser” or volunteer for thankless tasks or projects with a lot of downside risks. It’s amazing the risks a company will take on someone who volunteers for the hard or thankless projects.
  • Build a great set of trusted “peer mentors.” I have always had a strong set of professional peers or friends to rely on for perspective. So often we think of mentors as being more senior but the advice I received from peers has been some of the best.
  • Don’t be hesitant to work hard, really hard, you can only do it for so long. I worked very hard in my 20s and 30s and made sacrifices that might not be popular today. But I learned so much from grinding it out late nights and on the road.
  • Inventory what you’ve learned from your parents. Most of the advice is priceless, but I bet some of it is off base. For example, my dad gave me the gift of hard work and tenacity. At the same time, he had some deep seeded biases including a mindset of “employee vs the company” and that salespeople had easy jobs.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story about how that was relevant in your own life?

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” is an outstanding Wayne Gretsky quote. I think it’s obvious and ties to some of my other sentiments. Run to the problems at work even when you have no idea how to solve them. Work your way through them. Exhibit that mentality of, “I don’t know the answers, but I bet I can figure it out.”

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I don’t appreciate politics at all, but I think we could benefit from a movement toward true “independents” given the current polarization of American politics. Imagine if 80% of voters didn’t associate with a party? How would our political landscape look in that case? I’d suggest more common-sense solutions would surface and citizens would be increasingly aligned around execution and the greater good.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

The best way is to follow Concept3D on LinkedIn.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

About the Interviewer: Eric L. Pines is a nationally recognized federal employment lawyer, mediator, and attorney business coach. He represents federal employees and acts as in-house counsel for over fifty thousand federal employees through his work as a federal employee labor union representative. A formal federal employee himself, Mr. Pines began his federal employment law career as in-house counsel for AFGE Local 1923 which is in Social Security Administration’s headquarters and is the largest federal union local in the world. He presently serves as AFGE 1923’s Chief Counsel as well as in-house counsel for all FEMA bargaining unit employees and numerous Department of Defense and Veteran Affairs unions.

While he and his firm specialize in representing federal employees from all federal agencies and in reference to virtually all federal employee matters, his firm has placed special attention on representing Veteran Affairs doctors and nurses hired under the authority of Title. He and his firm have a particular passion in representing disabled federal employees with their requests for medical and religious reasonable accommodations when those accommodations are warranted under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (ADA). He also represents them with their requests for Federal Employee Disability Retirement (OPM) when an accommodation would not be possible.

Disability Inclusion In The Workplace: Gordon Boyes Of Concept3D On How Businesses Make… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.