Before Ahmed A. launched his career with RBC, he had spent six fruitless years looking for his ideal job. He says that despite his academic and professional qualifications, he could always tell by the tone of the questions about his visual impairment that he wouldn’t be invited back for a second interview.

But in his first interview for a six-month internship with RBC, he says he spoke for the first time with someone eager to help him be successful. That included assurances upon receiving approval that the technology in the office where he’d be working could be made compatible with his personal screen-reading software.  

“I knew somebody would give me an opportunity one day,” Ahmed says. “All it required was a positive attitude and a willingness to provide the accommodations I need.”

RBC hired him full-time in 2015. Since then, his knowledge and training as a chartered professional accountant (CPA) have helped him flourish in four different roles. One involved a transfer to a new department where RBC again adapted its technology to accommodate him in the workplace.

Ahmed A., Manager, Enterprise Finance Team
In 2020, Ahmed became a manager with the Enterprise Finance Team. He says he’d discovered his passion for accounting in high school and ignored the naysayers who said he’d never succeed in such a highly visual field.

Still, he says he wouldn’t be doing work that means so much to him without all the support he’s received from RBC.

“My visual impairment is not my biggest challenge,” Ahmed says. “Overcoming attitudinal barriers is my biggest challenge. RBC has created an environment that has enabled me to thrive.”

That work continues. In keeping with its long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion (D&I), RBC established an Enterprise Accessibility Office in 2023 to enhance and accelerate accessibility and inclusion throughout the organization.
Mia de Freitas, Accessibility Enablement Director
In partnership with different teams, the office is setting goals, acting on feedback and consistently evaluating opportunities to improve accessibility at RBC.

Mia de Freitas, director, accessibility enablement, says that identifying, removing and preventing barriers to accessibility is one of RBC’s top priorities.

More than one in five Canadians aged 15 and older, or 8 million people, have at least one disability.

Initiatives to reduce physical barriers to accessibility in RBC’s built environment and its online presence will benefit clients and other members of the public as well as employees, de Freitas says.

“Providing accessible, inclusive services is core to our values and RBC’s purpose – to help clients thrive and communities prosper,” she adds.

Addressing attitudinal barriers is also essential. Like Ahmed, persons with disabilities often cite others’ negative perceptions of them as one of their biggest hurdles. Stigma can also prevent those with invisible disabilities from disclosing their disability.

“Supporting individuals to disclose a disability can help us better understand the varied and specific needs or our employees,” de Freitas says. “This will allow us to provide the right supports to enable them to flourish in their roles.”

To help change mindsets, RBC offers a wide variety of programs, initiatives and resources. This includes training programs specifically for RBC’s people managers who have a critical role in creating welcoming workplaces to foster a sense of belonging, de Freitas says.

Ahmed, who has contributed to various D&I initiatives at RBC, says he’s now also a keen advocate for the Accessibility Office.

“This office is a game changer,” he says. “Accessibility can often be an afterthought, but this is bringing it to the forefront.”

This article was originally published in The Globe and Mail as part of RBC’s recognition as one of Canada’s Top Employers.

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