Catherine Nichols, Vice President of the Office of Accessibility at Salesforce, recorded a wide-ranging interview with the decorated actor Troy Kotsur, an advocate for the d/Deaf community and the first Deaf man to win an Academy Award for acting for his role in the Oscar-winning film “CODA.”
"The Deaf Experience" with Troy Kotsur
Kotsur, who was born Deaf, shared a variety of experiences throughout the interview, from his upbringing during an era in which few assistive resources were available to his family, to his time with the ground-breaking Deaf West Theatre collective, and how incorporating d/Deaf actors and perspectives into traditional theater is important for representation, while also adding layers and meaning to performances.
“What we developed there [at Deaf West], I think that everyone needed to see that type of unique performance where you have d/Deaf and hearing actors performing together,” says Kotsur. “And why I continued on stage, I felt like everyone needed to increase awareness of d/Deaf culture and American Sign Language and the mere existence of d/Deaf people too. And through the years, finally, we hit it with ‘CODA,’ and now the world knows about American Sign Language and d/Deaf culture.”
“Troy’s incredible warmth and unique perspective really help to reframe the conversations we are able to have every day at Salesforce in terms of understanding the benefits of being a truly inclusive place to work,” says Nichols, who has headed the Office of Accessibility at Salesforce since August 2021.
Accessibility at Salesforce
The interview, which was conducted with the assistance of an American Sign Language interpreter, is part of an internal health and wellness initiative at Salesforce, known as B-Well Together. It also represents the latest example of Salesforce’s commitment to improving accessibility and accommodations across its business—including at Dreamforce, the company’s flagship annual conference.
In September, the company marked the 20th anniversary of Dreamforce, the largest software conference in the world, by creating the most accessible event yet. In addition to providing a wide range of accessibility experiences—from visual interpreting to mobility solutions—Salesforce unveiled an Accessibility Track featuring 10 sessions throughout the conference with accessibility leaders and advocates.
Kotsur’s interview further exemplifies Salesforce’s commitment to Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM), observed globally each October. Throughout the month, the company will be producing a variety of “DEAM Spotlight” content for InclusionHub—from interviews and profiles of Salesforce employees to helpful insights, advice, opinions, and more.
“Too often, the conversation about accessibility is about companies trying to ‘solve’ problems for the outside world,” explains Thomas Frantz, Senior Manager of Accessibility Partnerships and PR at Salesforce. “DEAM gives us the opportunity to look inside our company and shine a light on what we’re doing for our own employees—and find inspiration to help us do even more.”