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As Culture and Performance Officer at Aspen Medical, Ehren Keys’ personality has made him a valued member of the close-knit team.

‘When he chairs a meeting, he cares as much about the individual as he does about their progress in the week’s tasks,’ says General Manager Maricel Giorgioni. ‘He’ll notice if someone is quiet during the Microsoft Teams meeting and check afterwards to make sure they’re okay.’

Born with Down Syndrome, Ehren has worked in a number of areas at Aspen Medical over the last ten years, from corporate support to payroll. He’s added to his proficiency by studying business administration. ‘I’m so happy here,’ he says. ‘I think people with disability need to have a meaningful job so they can be independent.’

October is Down Syndrome Awareness month. This genetic disorder, cause unknown, is present in 290 babies born in Australia each year. That’s one in 1,100. These individuals have an extra set of chromosomes that affect physical characteristics and intellectual development. Yet each person with Down Syndrome is unique, with different skills and talents. What is common, however, is the fact that they understand more than they can express in words. So, it’s important to listen and be patient in order to avoid under-rating someone’s strengths.

Aspen Medical is a privately-owned company committed to diversity and inclusion. ‘It has social purpose and genuinely wants to create a better world,’ says Maricel. ‘And it achieves this by doing things that are the right things to do, not because they tick boxes.

‘Our team for example, is made up of people with varying cultural backgrounds, ages, and skill sets. Obviously, there are some challenges when leading and managing a team. It’s important to know the person, their triggers and interests, so as to allocate appropriate duties and support.

‘Ehren has provided us an appreciation for another skill set.’

With a personal timetable that comes with a variety of tasks so as to avoid monotonous activity, Ehren’s day combines computer work with social tasks, such as distributing the post to other employees. ‘My colleagues are my mates. I’m a people person. I like getting to know people and starting a conversation,’ he says.

And his technical expertise is just as fine-tuned.

‘Ehren is very detail oriented. He’s great at picking up any errors on the computer screen and calling them to the attention of the individual,’ says Maricel. ‘He’s positive and optimistic, confident and outgoing. People gravitate to him. At a recent Lifeline breakfast, he knew more people than I did!’

Aspen Medical also encourages employees to participate in activities that support the community, such as events, going so far as to match people’s donations. There’s also volunteer leave available.

Ehren does his bit by delivering flowers on Wednesdays, his day off, for a local florist. His next step towards independence is to save enough money to move out of home and find accommodation through Project Independence, which provides social community housing for those with an intellectual disability.

According to Ehren, it’s important to have a job and outside interests. ‘I play basketball and love dancing. The help and guidance we may need at work is available. I want to encourage those with a disability to put in a resume. Life’s great.’

Says Maricel, ‘Having Ehren here demonstrates Aspen Medical’s commitment to provide meaningful opportunities for everyone. And his presence has enriched our workplace.

‘Our weekly Microsoft Teams meetings are big and include people who work in the Philippines. Ehren always ends them with a couple of jokes to brighten the day.

‘Without Ehren, we’re not complete. He brings joy to the team.’

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