HomeSocial Impact HeroesDisability Inclusion In The Workplace: Kit Huffman Of SENECA On How Businesses...

Disability Inclusion In The Workplace: Kit Huffman Of SENECA On How Businesses Make Accommodations…

Disability Inclusion In The Workplace: Kit Huffman Of SENECA On How Businesses Make Accommodations For Customers and Employees Who Have A Disability

An Interview With Eric Pines

People want to help others. If you’re new in your career, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone that is currently in the position that you want to be in. Chances are, they didn’t get there without support and mentorship themselves. People are more than happy to help if you can prove you can show up. This can be a professor that had a career you admire; a professional you found on LinkedIn holding a position at a company that interests you; or someone you clicked with at your first job or internship.

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 Kit Huffman.

Kit Huffman is the lead strategist and founder of SENECA. With a marketing degree from a top-10 business school and experience as a social media consultant for one of Europe’s largest marketing agencies, her pivot to specialize in personal branding has allowed her to work with global Fortune 500 brands and executives.

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 come from small-town, Michigan, 932 people kind of small town. Community has always been a large part of who I am. My neighbor, Dr. Marx, would wave to me through his window as I walked down the street. My high school English teacher is my parents’ best friend. My dentist was my next-door neighbor. Because of my small-town beginnings, my values are rooted in connection, compassion, and community.

I got started in personal branding because I felt that those values were missing online. Instead, I saw individuals flooded with sales calls disguised as networking calls and ‘personal’ connection requests 50 others got that same day.

With my entrepreneurship mind, marketing background, and desire to build true online communities, it felt natural to start building my personal branding agency.

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?

I would have to say consistency, creativity, and compassion.

Consistency is vital for both marketing and business. Both are long-term. Showing up every day for 20 minutes on social media is better than showing up for three hours every day for a month and never going back on again. It’s the same with building a business. While building a business, you must chip away at it day after day. You can’t find long-term success in short spirits. You find success in long-term consistency.

Creativity is what sets you apart from your competition. When I was first starting off working in social media, I tried to do it all. I was on every platform and offered every service. It wasn’t working. Everyone else was offering the exact same thing I was. So, I decided to assess my strengths: I have a business school background so I understood the inner workings of businesses, their challenges, and lingo; I specialized in LinkedIn, a platform that the majority of social media professionals thought of as a secondary platform at best, so I had the opportunity to niche down; and, at the time, I was based in Jackson Hole, WY, the county with the highest concentration of wealth per household, which meant there were a lot of well-off and successful individuals that had the resources to invest in their personal brands.

Compassion is what makes me feel good about what I am building. This is the first business I have built. I have worked on projects and in businesses where I felt anxious, unfulfilled, and stressed. Part of how I define my professional success is being able to build a business that my employees can feel excited, challenged, and engaged with.

For example, an employee of mine missed a meeting she said she was going to attend. I reached out to her to ask if she was okay. When she messaged back, she apologized and let me know that a tragic family event just happened, and the meeting slipped her mind. By responding with compassion, I was able to show a great employee that she is valued beyond one missed meeting and able to provide her a safe space to deal with what she needs to deal with in her personal life without the stresses of her professional life.

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

As a young professional, and especially as a young female professional, it is easy to sell yourself short. When I was first starting off, I was incredibly insecure about my age. I was a 21-year-old working with professionals over double my age and well-accomplished. I felt like I was faking it and didn’t deserve these opportunities.

To combat this, a mentor suggested to me to create an ‘expert envelope’ which is a Google Drive folder filled with your testimonials, screenshots of positive messages or comments, links to articles you were featured in, and any other little success or wins.

Whenever I get down on myself, I open the folder and just click through. It is a great reminder and confidence boost to see all my accomplishments in one place.

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

As corny as it sounds, every new client that my agency takes on is exciting. It is a new opportunity to get to know a well-accomplished person on a more personal level. I get to hear about their specific job, their industry, their career goals, their opinions, their past successes and failures, what topics facinate, and their unique tone and style.

It is fun to put on the hat of the Series C Startup Founder, the Fortune 500 VP, or the International Banker. I genuinely get excited about following along with their professional journey and love celebrating their successes and wins.

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?

While I value diversity and inclusion, it wasn’t really something that I thought I had much intention of bringing into my business. That was until one of my employees made a comment in a team meeting that SENECA is an incredibly inclusive work environment for neurodivergent workers. I was almost taken aback by the comment. “How?” I thought.

In the meeting, the employee went on to share that she is Autistic and a lot of the small details I didn’t think much of in our day-to-day operations made her feel a lot more comfortable and relaxed in the work environment.

Specifically, she said that sharing meeting agendas before the meeting gave her the opportunity to feel like she could contribute and show up confident and more relaxed. She also mentioned that she felt like the work environment was built in a way that she felt like she knew everyone well so that when she would talk very direct to others, no one was offended by her comments. Instead, they appreciated them.

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?

Inclusive work culture is required in today’s working environment. With the integration of remote work and more conversations around inclusion and work-life balance, creating a space that is more inclusive benefits everyone. This is because it allows for the creation of a space where everyone feels they can bring and show their full selves at work which makes for a more relaxed and respected environment. Everyone benefits from a work environment that is centered around supporting its employees.

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?

If an employee lets you know of their disability, it is first your duty to listen. This can be a vulnerable moment for them to be opening themselves up to you about their disability. By listening, you are letting them know that you value them and want to work with them to make accommodations. From there, try to best understand how exactly their disability relates to their work and what accommodations were helpful in the past. Chances are, the employee knows what works best for them and can give examples of accommodations that employers have given them in the past or suggestions about accommodations for the particular job. If needed from there, you can open up a conversation about what is reasonable — the law requires you to make reasonable accommodations that don’t cause “undue hardship” for the business.

Personally, while I was working for another company, I found out I had cancer. Under ADA, cancer is considered a disability. My manager at the company I was working at the time talked with me about accommodations I would need for time off for treatment, breaks ordered by my doctor during the work day post-treatment, and flexibility with my schedule if I wasn’t feeling well. I was given the opportunity to do some of my work remotely, at a time when remote work wasn’t as popular as it is now, and was given flexibility with the days that I worked. Because of these accommodations, I was able to complete the majority of my work upon return from treatment, causing no undue hardship to the company.

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.

Start with compassion and understanding for your employees in order to create an inclusive work environment. Maybe an employee doesn’t have a visible disability but, rather, an invisible one. Neurotypical disabilities, such as Autism, can be visibly hidden in the workplace.

A way to support neurotypical disabilities in the workplace is to make sure your business creates a space that is safe and open. This can be achieved by having weekly check-ins with team members and being open to feedback and critiques. In addition, something as small as sharing meeting agendas with your team can help ease meeting anxieties and give team members the space to feel that they can contribute to the meeting, too. Even if an employee isn’t disabled, it still shows that you care and value them by taking these small, extra steps while opening the door for support and empowerment for those that are.

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?

The smallest thing I introduced into my business that has garnered the best feedback was weekly, individual check-ins. This works well because our team is relatively small. However, this can still be done with large teams with their manager, too.

Every Wednesday, I just drop each team member a short message in Slack that reads, “Hey, NAME, how has everything been going this week?” It isn’t specific to work purposefully to make sure conversations outside of work feel like they can be included here. Most of the time, I get positive responses. However, it is incredibly helpful and powerful when an employee reaches out and lets me know when something isn’t going well either personally or professionally. Rather than waiting for whatever is going on to affect their work, we are able to talk things through, delegate work to another team member if needed, and open a door of dialogue about the situation going forward.

Moreover, just from the weekly check-in message, team members have mentioned that they feel comfortable reaching out if anything is going on, engaging in team meetings, and sharing their thoughts and ideas.

This is our 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”?

  1. “Jump, and the net will appear.” — Robin Crow

My very first mentor, John Jackoboice, would often recite this quote to me. You don’t have to have it all figured out. No one has it figured out, especially in the beginning. If something interests you (a job, a person, an opportunity), go for it. What’s the worst that could happen? Follow your interests and jump, the net will appear.

2. Find a mentor.

People want to help others. If you’re new in your career, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone that is currently in the position that you want to be in. Chances are, they didn’t get there without support and mentorship themselves. People are more than happy to help if you can prove you can show up. This can be a professor that had a career you admire; a professional you found on LinkedIn holding a position at a company that interests you; or someone you clicked with at your first job or internship.

3. Stay on your path.

In business school, I found it was easy for me to get distracted by others’ paths. Personally, my business school heavily pushed Big Four Accounting (ie, working for the top four accounting firms). To me, getting a job at a Big Four Accounting firm was made to seem like “you made it.” For a while there, too, I was set on applying for jobs as an accountant until my academic advisor made a comment to me. “Kit, you got an 85% in your last accounting class. That’s good, but no one wants an accountant that gets it right 85% of the time.” She was right. After that comment, I was able to shake the story of success pushed by my business school aside and focus on where my talents and interests lay.

4. Stay curious.

Complacency kills. Stay curious. You are young and new in your career. This is the time to try new things, stay humble, and continue to learn. It might be frustrating or daunting to think about starting a new hobby or skillset, but don’t focus on where you’re at now. Focus instead on yourself a year from now looking back at all the progress you have made. Who knows how much you can grow in a year? Stay curious.

5. “Have fun.” — Dad

There is a lot of pressure to “hustle hard” with your first job. While, yes, you want to do a good job, remember that life exists outside of work. Have fun.

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

“The fool is always getting ready to live.” — Seneca the Younger, Letter 13 in the Tao of Seneca Volume 1.

One of my favorite authors is Seneca the Younger (4 BC to 65 AD). Having been an investment banker, philosopher, and advisor to the emperor, Seneca is thought of as being one of the first thought leaders — someone who talks the talk and walks the walk. He is also the person whom our agency is named after.

Specifically, this quote struck a chord with me. To me, it is a reminder that if we want to live, we have to choose to live now. When we say things like, “I’ll build a business when I find more time,” we will find we never will never find the time. When we say things like, “I’ll travel once I have more money,” we will find we will never have more money. When we say things like, “I’ll start that new hobby when I have more energy,” we will find we never have more energy.

If we want to be an active participant in our lives, we have to start living now.

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. 🙂

Something that weighs heavy on me in my personal life is our plastic consumption. This is a complex topic that needs a lot more space to breathe than one question in one article, but a movement I would empower you to try is just mentally reflecting on all the plastic you individually brought into your life that is now thrown “away.”

Pink pool floaties, wrap seals from every olive oil container, every ketchup packet, gallon jugs of laundry detergent, your first phone case, dozens of dish sponges, old windshield wiper blades, containers that once held cosmetics, old pairs of headphones, last week’s takeout Chinese container, every pair of shoes you’ve ever owned, to-go coffee containers, your first alarm clock, last year’s swimsuit, Happy Meal toys you used to collect, hotel keycards you forgot to return …

The list goes on.

We live in a plastic-filled world. The first step to fixing our plastic consumption is to realize we have plastic over-consumption. Start by just taking a mental note of all the plastic you engage with on a day-to-day basis. Action starts with awareness.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Feel free to follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as check out SENECA’s website ( more information and how to work with us.

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.

Mr. Pines has also served as a mediator for numerous federal agencies including serving a year as the Library of Congress’ in-house EEO Mediator. He has also served as an expert witness in federal court for federal employee matters. He has also worked as an EEO technical writer drafting hundreds of Final Agency Decisions for the federal sector.

Mr. Pines’ firm is headquartered in Houston, Texas and has offices in Baltimore, Maryland and Atlanta, Georgia. His first passion is his wife and five children. He plays classical and rock guitar and enjoys playing ice hockey, running, and biking. Please visit his websites at and He can also be reached at

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