By John Samuel
At LCI, our mission is to create meaningful employment for people who are blind. It sounds like an easy mission when you read it, but when you experience it you realize how difficult it is to achieve. LCI has been living this mission for over 80 years, and changed hundreds of lives by creating employment for people in the blind community, and I am proud to be one of those people.
IN October, we celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and this year’s theme is “The Right Talent, Right Now.”
This theme really resonates with me, and it describes my life over the past two years. However, before that time, I did not have the combination of “right talent” and “right now.” Partly, this was largely self-inflicted, because I was not honest with myself, but I also do not think many employers were ready for someone with a disability to join their team.
I have been losing my sight throughout my entire working career, and I have been considered legally blind for the last ten years. It was something that I was able to hide for the early part of my career, but as my vision continued to progressively get worse, that got harder. During those transitional years, I was blessed to have several great teammates, colleagues, and bosses, who help me to continue my career trajectory, but despite having those resources, I often felt alone.
Until joining LCI, I could count the number of people who I encountered who had a disability on one hand – none of whom was blind. Even those individuals that I met did not hold senior roles. It was this fact, that I did not see others who resembled me, or understood the challenges that I faced on a daily basis, why I felt alone, despite having amazing people around me.
When I joined LCI, it was the first time in my career that I did not feel ashamed about my disability, and my true self came out. This is largely to do because I saw people around me who were blind, who used canes and guide dogs, and used assistive technology to use their computers. These were people who understood the challenges I faced, and I did not have to say a single word. It was liberating!
Over the past couple of years, I have also become vocal in the Diversity & Inclusion scene in the Raleigh area, and as a result, I have seen more discussions about people with disabilities than when I first got here. A lot of this discussion has been around Self Identification, and the focus that they are placing to encourage their own employees to openly share their disabilities. This is a very important endeavor, and I applaud them for taking this on.
Self-identifying is a deeply personal issue, and because of that, people are hesitant to do so. Having been someone who struggled with it myself for many years, I strongly believe the best way to encourage others to disclose, is my actively recruiting people with disabilities. It is these new recruits who can show existing employees that they can truly let their authentic selves come out, because they are no longer alone.
Are you having trouble finding great people to join your team? Ask the LCI Tech team how digital accessibility will help you tap a new pool of talent!