Eric knows what it’s like to live with a disability. After contracting rheumatoid arthritis over six decades ago, he acknowledges that his disability brings with it some limitations, but it also is a blessing in disguise.
On international assignment, Eric is part of the Cat Financial team in Zurich, Switzerland. He is also a founding member of the Nashville, Tennessee, chapter of Abled and Disabled Employees Partnering Together (ADEPT) Employee Resource Group (ERG).
Eric has rheumatoid arthritis, one of over 100 different auto-immune diseases in the arthritis family that affects millions of people around the world. Since he was a toddler, he has had physical challenges that most others do not.
“I can’t straighten out my arms, and I walk differently,” he said. “Arthritis is life-altering. It changes the way I think and the way I approach things, from the moment I wake up to the time I go to bed.”
But Eric says these perceived limitations do not stop him. “Having arthritis pushes me to think outside of the box,” he said. “I can’t touch my feet, but that doesn’t mean it prevents me from putting on my socks. I find another way to do it. That’s the same thing we need to do at work.”
Eric is involved in ADEPT because he believes raising awareness will help people understand that those with physical, mental or emotional challenges can contribute equally. “Persistence, flexibility in adapting to change, and maintaining a positive attitude are all traits that I’ve developed from having a disability,” he added. Today, ADEPT has 300 members who are working to improve the dialogue between abled and disabled employees at Caterpillar.
“Learning to be resilient and adaptable is an extremely important part of a disabled person’s life,” Eric said. “And it should be a part of everyone’s life."