At Raytheon Technologies, disability inclusion means being seen for who you are

Years ago at his old job, Matt Oka learned his team was booking flights to attend a quarterly business review. He noticed his name wasn’t on the travel list, so he asked his manager why.

Oka, who uses a wheelchair, recalls the manager telling him “he didn’t want to make it hard for me.”

“The team thought I wouldn’t be able to fly because I’m a wheelchair user. They thought they were giving me an easier path forward, and I didn’t see it that way,” said Oka, who now works at Raytheon Intelligence & Space, a Raytheon Technologies business, as a staff executive and senior finance manager.

“In their mind, they truly thought they were helping me, but they didn’t ask, and they assumed I couldn’t fly, which isn’t true,” he said. “Seemingly small things like excluding wheelchair users from business travel perpetuates stereotypes that disabled employees can't fully contribute. Perceptions sometimes turn into reality, so I try to help educate whenever I can.”

Correcting those perceptions is one of the reasons Oka now chairs RTX ADAPT, Raytheon Technologies’ newly reorganized employee resource group for people with disabilities, caregivers, parents of children with cognitive disorders, and allies. The group, along with eight similar organizations that represent communities across the employee population, is part of the company’s broader effort to strengthen its culture of inclusion.

Raytheon Technologies has in recent years received the highest possible score from the nonprofit DisabilityIN, which rates companies’ policies and practices for disability inclusion. While that’s a strong foundation, Oka and the group’s co-chair, Alison Faye Johnson, are working on ways to improve even further.

A plan of action

RTX ADAPT, or Abled and Disabled Associates Partnering Together, is Raytheon Technologies’ newly reorganized employee resource group for employees with disabilities, caregivers, parents of children with cognitive disorders and allies. The group has set several priorities to strengthen the company’s culture of inclusion:

Encouraging employees with disabilities to self-identify anonymously, which helps the company develop workplace programs

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Ensuring employees know how to access benefits and resources available to those with disabilities

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Reducing the perception that disabilities limit opportunities for professional advancement

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Launching a campaign called Faces of ADAPT to tell group members’ stories

“You never know who has a disability, because a lot of disabilities are hidden,” said Johnson, a senior manager in export authorizations at Pratt & Whitney, a Raytheon Technologies business. “You would not know that by talking to or looking at me. I’m a successful employee, but you would not know I’m hampered by migraines all the time.”

Alison Faye Johnson

“You never know who has a disability, because a lot of disabilities are hidden.”

Alison Faye Johnson | Co-chair | RTX ADAPT

Johnson recently brought her son, Lex, 15, to the Autism Society of Connecticut’s Walk for Autism event to volunteer with the group’s Pratt & Whitney chapter. Lex, who has been diagnosed with autism, saw his mom collecting resumes there for Pratt & Whitney’s new autism spectrum disorder internship program.

For Johnson, it was a moment that captured the impact of the ADAPT community.

“My son said, ‘Wait a minute, you’re hiring kids like me for a job at Pratt & Whitney? That’s so cool.’”

For Oka, one of the group’s most important jobs is to ensure that whatever the company takes on, whether it’s construction of a new facility, the rollout of new software tools or anything else, that those managing the project keep employees with disabilities in mind from the outset.

Another is to help employees across the company evolve their thinking when it comes to disabilities – much as he did with his colleagues on that business trip years ago.

“It was no different than any other travel I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “It was just normal status quo, and the team understood it was like being there with anybody else.”

Matt Oka

“(Disabilities) can come at any time, and without warning. We want to be there to support that group.”

Matt Oka | Chair | RTX ADAPT

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See how our employee resource groups help us build a more inclusive culture.

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