‘I made a decision to change my life.’

By: Jessica Bonardi

How V Teamer Michael Herbert changed his life and embraced his disability after years of hiding.

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On today’s episode of Up To Speed, producer Jess Bonardi shared the following updates:

V Teamer profile: Michael Herbert

Imagine hiding something for 47 years.

Michael Herbert, a Senior Manager of Operations Support for Global Network & Technology, has been living with a bone disease called Hereditary Multiple Exostoses for decades. The disease caused bone tumors to form throughout his body, impairing his ability to walk.

When Michael was growing up, he and his family didn’t talk about this condition in larger circles, but it couldn’t be hidden completely in public. “I know what it’s like to be treated differently based on the way you look,” Michael recalled. “It had a huge impact on me in terms of my self confidence. The feeling of being less-than.”

During his 27 years at Verizon, Michael did his best to conceal his condition. He’d often wear long-sleeve shirts to hide his arms. “If we were in a conference room, I would try to be the last one to leave, for fear of someone walking behind me and seeing the way that I walk.”

He later had a daughter, who underwent multiple surgeries to treat the same condition. The pandemic gave him time to reflect on the emotional weight he’d been carrying and the example he was setting. “I realized I can’t continue this way. I had to stop letting it control me. It’s not healthy for me. It’s not healthy for my daughter.”

He started to think about his condition in a positive light, and address it openly. “I spoke to my leadership team at Verizon and was met with tons of support and encouragement.”

Michael also made a decision to become a community leader in the ADVANCE Employee Resource Group. “It’s not easy talking about a disability, but if I can help just one person who is going through something similar, and get them to change the way they think about it, and get them to show up as their authentic self, then that is a huge accomplishment.”

Michael is thankful he made the difficult but overwhelmingly positive change in his life. “Verizon has created a safe place for me and words can’t express how grateful I am.”

He has words of encouragement for people struggling with a disability or feeling self-conscious about any aspect of their appearance: “It’s OK to be different.”

Click here to learn more about ADVANCE and how you can participate.

Verizon wins inclusivity award

Our V Teamers work every day to create a more inclusive and equitable world, and we’re proud to announce that, for 2022, CAREERS & the disABLED named Verizon a Top-50 employer for people with disabilities.

Disability innovation kickoff

This week, we kicked off our Forward for Good accelerator’s second cohort on Disability Innovation. Seven startup companies were selected for the accelerator, based on the solutions that leverage 5G, MEC and other leading technologies they’re developing for the disability community. And what makes this even cooler? Five of the groups have founders or leaders who are living with disabilities. The startups receive $50,000 to support building and scaling their innovations, as well as technology coaching, expert mentorship and connections to potential partners and funders.

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