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Fostering inclusive spaces through Disability Alliance

Five Google employees from the Google China office smiling for the photo. One male is in a wheelchair, with two males kneeling beside him for the photo. Behind them are two additional employees holding a Google logo cut-out.

I was 2 when my parents discovered I had polio, which impacted my ability to stand and walk. Growing up in China, I still remember the challenges I faced when I wanted to go to college. Back then, all potential candidates had to pass a physical test, which posed a challenge. Knowing this, my parents, my teachers and even the local government advocated for me. Thanks to their support, I was granted an exception to attend college, where I graduated with a degree in computer science.

When I joined Google in Shanghai in 2011, the real estate team was working to open a new office space. I was part of the planning process to ensure we designed an inclusive workspace, especially for individuals with physical disabilities. When I discovered the desks at the office were too high, or if the meeting space was not designed wide enough for someone in a wheelchair to enter, I worked with the team to solve the problem. I also suggested building wheelchair-accessible restrooms when they were not available on the floor I was working on.

These experiences showed me everyone has the voice to drive change — including myself. I decided to co-lead our Disability Alliance (DA), one of Google’s resource groups in China, with other passionate Googlers. We wanted to create a space to help address challenges Googlers with disabilities face, and build allyship among the wider Google community. We also wanted to create a platform to increase awareness of different forms of disabilities. For example, some people don't think about invisible disabilities, but it's equally important to build awareness of disabilities you might not immediately see. I'm incredibly excited to see how we continue to grow our community in the coming year across China.

Having a disability doesn't limit me, and I've been fortunate to be surrounded by people who value my abilities instead of my disability. Over the years, I've achieved my goals and dreams from leading an incredible team of 50 at Google, taking on physical activities such as skiing and marathons, and driving change for the broader disability community.

Male Googler in a wheelchair posing for the camera with a thumbs up. He is at a running marathon and is wearing his running attire with a race bib. Behind him are three colorful mascots from the marathon organizer.

I was ready to compete in a marathon in China back in 2021

As we commemorate Global Accessibility Awareness Day, I also spoke to Sakiko, a fellow member of our Disability Alliance chapter in Japan, to learn more about what drives her, and why it’s important that we provide equal opportunities for all.

The image shows three Google employees sitting in a conference room facing an audience. One Googler is sharing her personal experiences as a person with a disability in Japan.

Sharing my personal experience at an external event. I’m seated at the extreme right in a gray sweater.

Tell us more about yourself. What keeps you going at Google after more than nine years?

I was born with spina bifida, and I move around with crutches. I’ve always wanted to work in sales, but when I was job hunting, I was turned down by several companies because of my disabilities. I knew I had the ability and knowledge to sell, and I enjoy interacting with people, so I didn’t give up. When I interviewed at Google, the interviewers focused on my potential and abilities, and not my disability. That surprised me, because I’ve never experienced that. I recalled asking one of my interviewers if my disability would impede this opportunity, but he said, “if you have the ability to sell, it shouldn’t stop you from doing that.” It was amazing and encouraging to hear that. I currently work in the Google Ads team and have experienced various roles. When my clients shared how grateful and thankful they are for my dedicated support, that really keeps me going.

What is a memorable experience you’ve had with the Disability Alliance?

I once hosted a workshop where we invited students with disabilities to have hands-on experience coding their own web application, giving them the confidence to pursue their interest in engineering. At the end of the event, several parents shared that they didn’t know their children had the potential to code and create applications all by themselves. I still remember this day vividly, because it demonstrates everyone has the chance to shine when they are given the right opportunities to learn and develop new skills.

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