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Building Apps, Hard Drives, and Opportunities for Kids with Different Abilities

Article | June 2019

Building Apps, Hard Drives, and Opportunities for Kids with Different Abilities

According to the World Health Organization, by 2050 one in every ten people will have “disabling” hearing loss1. But, does the loss of hearing have to be “disabling?”

At Cigna, we're working hard to change perceptions by focusing on what people can do versus can't do. For example, the only thing that deaf people can't do is hear.

And to that point, the possibilities are endless.

Cigna recently hosted 20 students from the American School for the Deaf, the oldest permanent school for the deaf in the United States, for a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Camp at our Bloomfield, Connecticut campus. This one-day STEM education event provided these students an opportunity to get hands-on experience in the field by building gaming software applications and building laptop computers.

“Do you know who this is?” said Mark Boxer, executive vice president and global chief information officer at Cigna, while handing out a photo as he addressed the students. “It’s Vincent Cerf, the person who invented the underlying technology standards for the internet—and he happened to be deaf.” Mark continued, “The only reason we can surf the web, and the only reason companies like Google exist today, is because of an innovative, deaf individual.”

This story resonated with the students—and perhaps inspired them to consider pursuing future careers in STEM-related fields.

The event, which was led by Cigna's Technology Early Career Development Program (TECDP), was conducted in collaboration with the technology services firm CGI. The firm holds a nationwide K-12 STEM camp program aimed at training underrepresented (woman, minorities, and economically disadvantaged) youth interested in STEM careers. This camp was the first time the program trained deaf students.

“The unemployment rate in the disability community is the highest of all minority groups2, Boxer noted. “Events like this STEM camp provide an opportunity to train students in STEM and encourage employment opportunities; education and training for people with disabilities levels the playing field.”

“It’s about paychecks, not pity,” he added, quoting the original sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Congressman Tony Coelho.

“The opportunity to work with students from the American School for the Deaf is an example of our commitment to breaking down barriers and embracing each other’s differences,” said Susan Stith, Vice President, Diversity, Inclusion, Foundation and Civic Affairs. “Bringing together a team diverse in thought, abilities, and backgrounds leads to more innovation and better experiences for our customers, patients, clients, and employees. As we look to grow our talent pipeline, we look forward to continuing to mentor these students as they consider pursuing careers in health or STEM-related fields.”

Want to learn more about the STEM Camp at Cigna? Check out this video.

Young boy with glasses looking at code on computer screen

1 World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/deafness/news/hearWHOApp-news/en/, Accessed June 7, 2019.

2 United Nations, https://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/toolaction/pwdfs.pdf, Accessed June 7, 2019.

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