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Passionate About Disability Education and Advocacy

Q&A with Vanessa Kelly of Goldman Sachs

Vanessa Kelly, Goldman Sachs Disability Network

The Center for Hearing and Communication (CHC) recently participated in a hearing health educational event for Goldman Sachs employees presented by the Goldman Sachs Disability Network and the company's Wellness Group. We're proud of our long history of providing annual onsite hearing screenings for Goldman Sachs employees, and we were thrilled to have the opportunity to serve as a hearing health resource at the virtual event.


Goldman Sachs is among a growing number of companies embracing the values of diversity and inclusion. Vanessa Kelly, the event organizer and a member of the Disability Network Steering Committee, sheds light on the role of inclusivity at Goldman Sachs and shares her own journey with hearing loss in a Q&A with CHC.


CHC: Tell me about the Goldman Sachs Disability Network and your role with this group?


Vanessa: The Goldman Sachs Disability Network is a firm-sponsored employee inclusion group which seeks to raise awareness and understanding of the needs, priorities and potential of people with disabilities. This includes providing support for employees with a disability, their managers and colleagues, those who develop a disability during employment and those who are caregivers of people with disabilities, with the goal of ensuring Goldman Sachs is accessible to all and considered an employer of choice for individuals with a disability. I have the honor to serve as the co-head of the New York/New Jersey chapter of the Disability Network and lead a Steering Committee of dedicated employees who are passionate about disability education and advocacy.


CHC: What inspired you to get involved? What impact has this group had on you, other members, and the Goldman Sachs community?


Vanessa: I was fortunate to be invited to join the Disability Network Steering Committee by a mentor to whom Goldman Sachs Wellness had connected me as a part of my self-disclosure and disability accommodation requests. The Disability Network has entirely changed my life, providing me a community of colleagues, many of whom have become dear friends, professional opportunities to work with senior leaders of the firm on disability related initiatives, the ability to be a positive culture carrier and change-maker within the Goldman Sachs community through leadership roles, speaking and recruiting events, and mentoring others. Lastly, and most personally, it has supported and encouraged my journey towards self-acceptance as a deaf woman.


CHC: CHC was honored to participate in a recent virtual event, “Hearing Matters: Sound Solutions for Adults and Children with Hearing Loss,” for Goldman Sachs employees sponsored by the Goldman Sachs Disability Network and Wellness Group. What was the impetus for this program and what do you hope participants got out of it?


Vanessa: CHC provides yearly onsite hearing tests for Goldman Sachs employees at select office locations. We thought offering this program would provide the Goldman Sachs community and their families with additional hearing health resources. Additionally, after Disability Network events at which I’ve shared my story, Goldman Sachs community members often contact me with hearing health related questions, so I knew there was a need. Lastly, because the CHC has been so supportive in my hearing loss care and journey, it was important to me that my colleagues know about such a wonderful resource.


CHC: Is there anything else you would you like others to know about CHC?


Vanessa: A unique aspect of CHC that has been integral to hearing health care is the ability to have all of my medical providers within one office working as ‘Team Vanessa’. At CHC, my audiologist, my speech therapist, my psychotherapist and my ENT all work together to ensure I’m receiving not only the best medical care, but they have also introduced me to other CHC staff members with whom I could discuss various hearing related issues (for example, when I was initially exploring getting a Cochlear Implant) and invited me to join adult hearing loss skills groups sponsored by CHC where I made new friends and learned helpful hearing skills.


CHC: Would you like to share something about your hearing journey that may help others?


Vanessa: I would want to share how vital support is in a hearing loss journey. Having a disability can be a traumatic and challenging experience, as well as an empowering and transforming one. Support is critical to maintaining resilience and dedication to your own self-care and advocacy.


Although I was deaf since birth, it was not until later in life that I was public about my hearing loss and began caring medically for it. I could never have done it without support from four sources: (1) my loving family and friends who accepted me and my disability unconditionally, (2) an employer dedicated to disability inclusion from benefits offered, services provided, available accommodations, managerial and collegial support, as well as leadership opportunities, (3) a coordinated, caring medical team, like CHC, and (4) mindful movement, breath, and meditation practices.


CHC: When you think of the future as a person with a hearing disability, what do you hope for?


Vanessa: My hopes are many! I hope that having a disability will be seen as a strength vs. a deficit, that persons with a disability (and all marginalized identities) are represented in much greater numbers in the workforce, that accessibility practices and technology solutions are available, affordable, and mainstream. More personal to my own advocacy, I hope that the voice and stories of those with a disability are told and heard in greater numbers across all of the arts. I think sharing our story can be a powerful form of advocacy—I call it narrative advocacy—and have found it has been so influential in changing how we see ourselves and others in a more inclusive, equitable, and interdependent way.


Much thanks to Goldman Sachs and Vanessa Kelly for all that they do to promote inclusion and enhance life for people with disabilities.


Contact Us


If you'd like to learn how CHC can become a partner in hearing health with your company, school or community center, please contact Carolyn Stern, Assistant Director of Outreach and Strategic Initiatives at cgstern@chchearing.org.





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