By John Samuel
I started using social media in 2006 when I signed up for Facebook. It was a great way for me to stay in touch with high school and college friends in the U.S. when I moved to India. The more I relocated around the globe, Facebook became even more important for me to stay in touch with people I was meeting throughout my journey. However, in 2014, when I started working for a diaspora focused crowdfunding business, I started seeing social media as a way for me to disseminate information about investments, and more of a tool for my work than a personal platform. Now in 2021, I see even more importance for social media to help me raise awareness for the work I do. Now, I’ve primarily switched out social media platforms, from Facebook to LinkedIn, and I have traded out one “D” word for another, from diaspora to disability.
I’ve noticed how sometimes the word “disability” causes some people to squirm or feel uncomfortable, like they’re saying a dirty word. But as someone who is blind and part of the disability community, I want to let you know that it isn’t! it’s actually something I’m proud of and wear as my badge of honor.
Disability can be challenging, painful, and tragic. It also can cause sadness, hardship, and pain. But more importantly, it builds empathy, problem solving, and strength!
I was first diagnosed with a degenerating eye condition when I was in college and was told I was going blind. I was ashamed and embarrassed to tell anyone. I didn’t want to be labeled as someone who is disabled because I didn’t feel like I was one of “those people.” As a result, since I wasn’t willing to disclose my disability, I ended up taking the path of “most” resistance for my education, work, and life, and I failed… a lot. Fortunately, something kept forcing me to get back up and keep moving.
My story isn’t unique. It’s actually the same for many people with disabilities, but it continues to repeat itself. You would think by 2021 that his wouldn’t be the case, but it is.
That’s why I’m introducing #DisabilityStrong. #DisabilityStrong represents the strength of the disability community and those people in particular who overcome attitudinal and accessibility barriers every day. In the U.S. alone, there are an estimated 61 million adults with a disability and that number is growing with our aging population.
Through my work as CEO of Ablr, our team is working to remove the accessibility challenges that are hindering people from accessing the web and digital content. And through the “Disability Inclusion: Enabling the Workforce of Tomorrow” training program we’re developing, we will change the attitudes and assumptions that companies have about people with disabilities. We’re trying to set the stage for #DisabilityStrong to shine and tap in to a group of people who are resilient, gritty, and hungry for a chance. What organization doesn’t want that.
It took me nearly two decades to realize what kept me on track moving forward, despite stumbling and falling down. But I now know that it was #DisabilityStrong and I can’t wait to see what we can do when we harness it from 61 million people.
Are you interested in learning more about the Disability Inclusion: Enabling the Workforce of the Future training modules? If so, email me at john.Samuel@Ablr360.com and let’s talk!