When Viktor Johansson first started to think about his future career opportunities, he realised that he could probably never become a policeman or a firefighter. Instead, he took an interest in IT and decided to study app development, which offered an abundance of opportunity at the time.
When he first entered work life, he was stunned by how few people with physical disabilities actually worked in tech.
“IT is a great industry for people with a physical disability, since they can work on the same terms as everyone else. Plus, they have often grown up and relied on tech from a young age. So why are there so few of us in the industry?” says Viktor.
Viktor happened to meet another developer who was wheelchair-bound. He had come to the same realisation, and together, they wanted to do something about. To raise awareness, they started “Crip Podcast”, in which they interviewed various influential people on the topic.
Viktor explains how the term “crip”, short for cripple, is used widely among people with disabilities.
“It may seem like a provocative word,” he says. “But we want to play down the issue and make ‘crip' into something cool, increase people's knowledge and debunk phobias about people with disabilities.”
Disability as a strength
A couple years later, Viktor and his friend decided to do something more concrete to get more people with physical disabilities to the industry. They founded the organisation Crip in Tech, which offers coaching, training and other consulting services – for companies as well as for IT consultants with physical disabilities.
“People with physical disabilities often have low self-esteem, and they are used to excusing themselves,” he explains. “Försäkringskassan and Arbetsförmedlingen do a lot of good things to help people with disabilities get a foot in the job market. For example, they will cover half of the salary cost for an employer who hires a person with a physical disability. But then there's the feeling you got the job because someone paid for it, and that doesn't necessarily boost your self-esteem.”
He adds that programmes such as these carry a risk that people with a physical disability will eventually be offered an early disability pension as an alternative. It's a negative spiral that affects both the individual's physical and mental health.
With Crip in Tech, Viktor is working to get more people to see physical disabilities as a strength. And he is passionate about getting others like him to succeed.
“Getting more people with physical disabilities into the job market enables companies to meet both their diversity and performance targets. As a person with a physical disability you can do the job as well as anyone else, if not better. Apart from being talented at tech, people with disabilities can also offer new experiences and perspectives. It's a win-win”.
Aspects of diversity
Viktor, who started at SEB in November, after working several years for various start-ups and IT companies – both in Sweden and the USA – says that Arenastaden is one of the best offices he has worked at.
“It's super-modern, with flat surfaces and a well-designed elevator lobby. My colleagues and other office staff have been very helpful and solution-oriented. And I actually have an advantage in a large office environment like Arenastaden. I can roll faster to the next meeting room than my colleagues can walk,” he says with a laugh.
Now SEB is starting a partnership with Crip in Tech whereby it will be recruiting and employing talented developers directly from the Crip network and enabling continuing training for talented individuals.
“I want to commend the entire Talent Acquisition team, with the amazing Sam Joukhadar at the helm, for their hard work, openness and ability to identify and bring out the magic in every person. And then I want to thank Mia Hamstedt from Inclusion & Diversity, who made this possible from the very start. Her work has been invaluable”, says Viktor.
He says that he appreciates that SEB has realised the value of equality, diversity and inclusion. He points that diversity concerns aspects than ethnicity, age and gender.
“My wish for the future is that people won't see it as strange at all to have a colleague sitting in a wheelchair, hopping around on one leg, or with a visual impairment. We aren't quite there yet, but I will continue to drive this issue. It's a matter close to my heart,” Viktor concludes.