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Building a More Accessible World Through Giving Back

By John Samuel


John Samuel and new homeowner Rosemary posing together, smilingJohn Samuel with Jen and her family, in front of her new home

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the group dedication for Habitat for Humanity of Wake County homebuyers Mary Catherine, Jenn, and Rosemary of their completed homes in Habitat Wake‘s Augusta Landing neighborhood.


Back in May, my Triangle Business Journal #40u40 class had the chance to make an impact on a couple of local families when We went out and built the walls for Jen’s home at the construction Facility, and when we went out and built alongside Habitat Wake homebuyers Fran and Rosemary on Rosemary’s house, which was down the street from Jenn’s lot. Not to mention, our class raised the most money EVER by a Triangle Business Journal 40 Under 40 class to help Habitat Wake build safer, affordable housing in our community.


At Saturday’s home dedication celebration, I was honored to speak on behalf of my Triangle Business Journal 40u40class. Not only was it great to see the finished product of what we helped build, but it was even grater to see how happy and proud the homeowners were!


Before I went out to help at Rosemary’s house, I was worried about how accessible the home building process would be for a person with a disability. However, when I reached out to Sean Maroney, Major Gifts Officer for Habitat who was organizing the project for us, he assured me that the home building process was accommodating for people of all abilities – and he was right.


Not only did I get to achieve my goal of helping build a house, but I also got to build a relationship with Fran, a Habitat homeowner. She and I immediately connected and worked together to help hammer in mails across the frame for Rosemary’s roof.


Although Sean had assured me that the build would be accessible for me, I was still leery. However, after explaining to Fran about the visual challenges I was facing, we determined a reasonable accommodation that would allow us to work together to effectively work on the roof frame. Since I was unable to see the numbers on the measuring tape, Fran would measure out where the nails had to go and I would then hammer them in. this collaboration allowed us to work efficiently and help get the work done that was needed.


I am sure there were several people at the site build who underestimated what I could do when I showed up at the home build with my white cane. However, Fran and I figured out a simple adjustment that made my experience so much better. I think this often describes the feelings of organizations when it comes to people with disabilities accessing their websites. Many designers and developers do not realize that millions of people have a disability, and that we visit websites, and use mobile apps, on a daily basis. In most cases, all it takes is a few adjustments to improve the user experience for everyone.


I want to thank Habitat for Humanity of Wake County for allowing me to come and share my story and testimonial about what the home building experience meant to me. I went in to the home build wanting to help someone else achieve their dream, but I ended up being the one who was helped to achieve my goal!


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