Removing the barriers of unconscious bias around disability.
As we write this, in the year 2020, diversity and inclusion are hot topics within the cultural landscape. At Ablr, we love leading and engaging in conversations that grow empathy and attention towards people who are marginalized for their differences. We are pleased to hear our society demand action towards removing bias and the barriers blocking human equality. And we are grateful that at Ablr, we can partner with companies, doing our part, to bring accessibility and inclusion to all.
While Ablr marks its launch in 2020, the premise of the brand began many years back with Ablr’s Chief Architect, John Samuel.
John is blind. He was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease while in college. While John traveled the world working in lead roles for big companies like Sasken Technologies in India and Aster in Uganda, he never outwardly acknowledged his impairment. That changed in 2017, when a friend who shared the same disease, Ed Summers, gave him life altering advice: if he wanted to continue his career trajectory, he needed to learn as a blind person. And that’s exactly what he did.
He began using a screen reader, a form of assistive technology that allows visually impaired users to read the text displayed on the computer screen with a speech synthesizer or braille display. He also started disclosing his disability when applying for jobs in North Carolina. That’s when LCI, headquartered in Durham, came knocking on John’s door.
“This is a cultural shift that needs to happen, and we have been trying to do this by providing digital accessibility services, by people with disabilities. Not only are we helping our customers make their digital content more accessible, but we are also helping them build empathy, both of which I hope will lead to more people with disabilities entering the workforce.”
John Samuel, Ablr’s Chief Architect
Making the natural connection between digital marketing and accessibility and inclusion
LCI is one of the largest employers of Americans who are blind or visually impaired, creating meaningful careers and lasting skills that transform lives. LCI creates over 2,000 products across their 8 factories, and operates 50 retail locations, 2 distribution centers, and 4 e-commerce sites. LCI created a technology specific division, LCI Tech, to examine various accessibility tools and platforms and to create a service to bring firms up to speed by offering usability testing, training and monitoring.
Two years later, John, who is still running LCI’s Tech division, is serendipitously introduced to Donald Thompson. Donald is the CEO of Raleigh’s” Fastest Growing Agency” as identified by Inc Magazine (2018-2019 Walk West) and creator of The Diversity Movement (TDM), which seeks to embed diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into the core of doing business.
Together, they couldn’t deny the natural connection between digital marketing and accessibility and inclusion, nor their joint enthusiasm for the work. They knew that bringing the voice of people with disabilities to the table and bringing D&I into the tech world was mistakenly not being capitalized in the Market.
“The disability community is an untapped market and with nearly one billion people globally it is a market that businesses cannot ignore. In addition, this is a community that is unemployed, often underemployed, so if we can remove the barriers that are causing this, we can make a significant socioeconomic impact.”
John Samuel, Ablr’s Chief Architect
A powerful partnership.
Today, Ablr is a powerful partnership of Walk West and LCI. LCI’s President, Jeffrey Hawting, and Walk West’s Director of Partnership and Analytics, Mike Ianneli, round out the leadership, and share in the responsibility towards bringing, “Accessibility and Inclusion to all.“