Creating a Space for Everyone

Celebrating You

Victor Calise wants all associates and customers to feel seen and supported.

Victor Calise in a wheelchair in front of a spark

How do electric carts fit in the checkouts? Can we improve the shopping experience for people with a variety of disabilities? How can Walmart recruit associates and suppliers with disabilities?

These questions and more are a part of Victor Calise’s mission to make sure everyone feels they belong at Walmart.

Victor is a Director in Walmart Belonging for Walmart’s Accessibility Center of Excellence. He focuses on how stores support people with disabilities, whether those people are customers or associates.

When you hear the term “people with disabilities,” you might think of people who, like Victor, use wheelchairs. But disabilities can affect people in many different ways — not all of them visible.

“We think about how to create better spaces for people with all kinds of disabilities: people who are deaf and hard of hearing, blind and low vision, older persons, people who are neurodiverse, or people with ADHD, learning disabilities, autism, and Down syndrome,” he explains.

You’ve got to see it to be it

Victor shares that he’s also looking at how Walmart can do more to recruit disabled people and to keep disabled associates in all areas of the business. Part of that means making sure associates feel safe disclosing their disabilities — and that means making sure they see other people with disabilities working and thriving at Walmart.

“If you don't have that representation, how do you know you belong?” Victor shares. “Number one is leading by example, showing that I'm a person with a disability, talking about disability issues, making sure that people hear and see other people with disabilities across the business participating. I think that encourages others to come out.”

Victor says Walmart wants to make sure the needs of associates with disabilities are met.

“We want them to feel comfortable advocating for themselves as well as for customers with disabilities for sure,” he explains. “They may need tools to succeed in the workplace, but they might not get them because they're afraid to disclose their disability. We want people to come forward, to be able to ask for what they need so they can be successful in the workplace.”

Making a welcoming space

Victor played a part in bringing Walmart’s new sensory-friendly store hours to life. Every day between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., lights are turned down, and music and TVs are turned off at every Walmart store, creating a less stimulating shopping experience.

Victor explains that the program was created with the help of many teams at Walmart, and it’s just one example of our focus on belonging. “I contributed as a subject matter expert, sharing the importance of using the right language and also how important it is to communicate directly to the disabled community to understand their needs.”

And in spring of 2024, Victor was named as the Chair of inABLE, the Associate Resource Group leading the way in creating an inclusive environment for people whose lives are touched by disability.

An avid advocate

Victor has had a long career as a disability advocate. He spent two decades in public service, including serving as commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. He joined Walmart in March of 2022.

His work in the field even earned him the Craig H. Neilsen Visionary Prize, a prestigious award that recognizes those who make the world a better place for people living with spinal cord injuries.

“It's extraordinary to be recognized by a bunch of people that have seen the work that you've done throughout your life,” he says. “But you can’t get anything done in accessible and inclusive spaces without having people behind you and leadership behind you. So coming to Walmart, seeing the leadership’s commitment to belonging and getting the opportunity to drive this effort at the world's number one retailer is exciting! We can make that difference.”

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