Technically Sick:

Disability Inclusion and Accessibility in the Workplace

Hosted by Monica Michelle, May 16, 2022


Monica speaks with John Samuel, co-Founder and CEO of Ablr360 – a Disability Inclusion and Digital Accessibility company that aims to remove barriers for all people with disabilities.   

In this episode, John shares his story of losing his eyesight and the impact that had on his career. You’ll learn about the accessibility barriers that exist in physical and virtual workplaces, on the web at large, and in employment opportunities and training. John and Monica also discuss current and future solutions, including how to make your website accessible today right now and how we can encourage disabled professionals moving forward. 

“I always say ’Proximity Builds Empathy’- I don’t want people to think about accessibility as a line of code, but rather as a human experience.”

– John Samuel 



  • 1:32 – When John first realized the impact of his work on the disability community 
  • 3:36 – Where there are gaps in the digital divide for accessibility 
  • 5:10 – Accessibility in education and voting 
  • 6:48 – Barriers to accessibility on websites 
  • 8:26 – Recommended adjustments to make your website more accessible 
  • 9:56 – Changes for accessibility that help the general population 
  • 10:57 – Setting disabled employees up for success 
  • 12:34 – Making the process of finding and hiring disabled employees easier 
  • 14:22 – How to build a more accessible environment for your employees 
  • 16:46 – Options to give blind employees autonomy and assistance navigating 
  • 18:06 – New technology that John is excited for in the future 
  • 18:52 – Extended Reality (XR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented Reality (AR) and their benefits for the disability community 
  • 21:54 – Tools to find people with disabilities to hire and to help you test your products 
  • 23:17 – How John advocates for the disability community 
  • 24:33 – Technology John would love to see in the future

Episode Takeaways

  1. Disability inclusion is an essential aspect of the modern-day workplace. Through removing barriers to reduce the digital divide, companies can expand their outreach of qualified and talented workers no matter their physical ability.
  2. Barriers to entry for employment goes beyond the workplace. Job training, applications, and contact forms need to be accessible to people of varying abilities as well.
  3. Proximity builds empathy. Accessibility is more than building codes and accommodating needs. It’s about lifting up the human experience

Actionable Tips

  1. Hire disabled workers. When creating increased methods of accessibility in your workplace, these workers can bring their perspective to ensure the problems that need to be solved are being prioritized.
  2. There are some things you can do to make your website and workplace more accessible right now, even without any coding experience. Add captions to your videos and video calls, create transcripts for audio content, and add a skip link to your site.
  3. Put an accessibility statement on your website, so that if someone has a challenge navigating, they can reach out for assistance.

Resources Mentioned in the Episode 

Additional Resources

About John Samuel

John Samuel is the Co-Founder and CEO of Ablr360 – a Disability Inclusion and Digital Accessibility company that aims to remove barriers for all people with disabilities. They do this by eliminating the digital divide, changing the mindsets of people and organizations, and creating pathways for employment. John’s passion for his work is very personal, as he is blind. He wants to make sure the obstacles he has faced are removed for others.


[00:00:00] [Music] 

[00:05:97] John: Bring people in with varying abilities into your office. Talk to us. Spend some time with us. And as you get to go through and you understand things that we do to navigate the world and just to live, you can then build that into your own experiences. And that’s why I always talk about “Proximity Builds Empathy”.  I share my story a lot because I want people to not think about accessibility as a line of code, but really think about it as a human experience. 

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[00:33:66] Monica (Recorded): Welcome to Technically Sick – this podcast explores how technology can increase access to education, employment, and improved socialization for the disability and chronic illness community.  

[00:47:13] I’m your host, Monica Michelle.  

[Music Ends]  

[00:52:49] Today I’m speaking with John Samuel, the co-founder and CEO of Ablr360 – a company who’s mission is to remove the barriers of the digital divide for all people, making the internet truly a place for everyone. Being blind, his passion in removing the digital problems that bar access to internet learning, job opportunities, and virtual community is a deeply personal mission for him.  


[01:17:29] Welcome to John Samuel! [Music Ends] 

[01:23:16] Monica: I spent the whole morning, deep diving into your interviews, and you are such a good podcast host too. I really enjoyed listening to your show on YouTube

[01:31:45] John: Well, thank you! 

[01:32:46] Monica: Can tell me of the moment when you first realized that your work was going to create a real impact in the disability community? 

[01:38:89] John: Yeah. I think the first time I noticed this was: I had hired my first team members and it was a young person. She had graduated from college. And for five years she didn’t have a job. She was doing unpaid internships and she was totally blind. She was doing some usability testing with some understanding of HTML. It was sad that she wasn’t employed. And when I interviewed her, I realized that she was something special.  

[02:03:92] When we started to work together and I started to reach out to different companies and try to do some digital accessibility work, I saw her. I saw how she started to just shine, and she had something special. At that moment, I was like “Oh, we’re doing something really good here”. And then eventually started bringing on more people. And we had around five people, four of them had not worked before. One person had been working for 40 years for the state government and she wanted a second career. So, our team was a motley crew of folks. 

[02:35:90] Then I started seeing all of these people growing.  They never had a chance, and on the team, they finally had that. They were able to shine and that’s when I knew we had something special and it made me really excited that we could really scale this and create more opportunities for people with disabilities. 

[02:50:47] Monica: So that’s for your company Ablr. 

[02:52:39] John: That is. That’s correct, for my company Ablr, where we created disability inclusion and accessibility business. And on the core lines of our business are eliminating the digital divide, which we do through our digital accessibility services. We also are changing the mindsets of people and organizations, which we do through our disability inclusion advisory services and training modules. And then finally, creating pathways for employment, which we are doing through our workforce development programs. And all of that is really focused on removing the barriers for people with disabilities. 

[03:36:73] Monica: You’re speaking my heart language. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve talked to people where they’re not hiring the people who have the disability in the company to help make these decisions and tests. So, this is an amazing thing.  

[03:24:63] I would love to talk to you a little bit more about the problems that you’re seeing where there’s that that break in that digital divide?  

[03:34:06] John: Everywhere. [Laughs] We’re seeing that gap everywhere! But for me personally, okay, going back my own personal story, I first saw it in education. And I realized that that’s where, kinda, my passion was. If we can get education accessible, then we can create employment opportunities, because I actually failed out of college. Because I was ashamed and embarrassed to tell my professors, teachers, and classmates that I was going blind and I failed out. But, a lot of the content just wasn’t accessible.  

[04:12:68] I ended up, you know, landing on my feet, finishing up college, and even going to do my MBA. But during my MBA, even there, I was facing a lot of digital accessibility challenges. And even though now I felt more comfortable talking about it, I didn’t know how to advocate for myself and get the changes that needed to be done. And so, I know there’s a lot of students who are out there, who may be facing visual challenges, losing their sight and not wanting to be seen as different, and wanting to just fit in, but that’s where I feel like I can be their voice for them. I can be that advocate for them. I can help make that change, so that they can show their true colors and really give them the best that they can do. Not just be judged on what they can’t do, because of a challenge that the system is there. But at Ablr, we’ve been able to help from e-commerce to (education’s one of our big places), but even the North Carolina Election Board. We’re making voting accessible. And we talk about voting being a civil right, but in my mind, accessibility is too. [Music] It’s awesome. [Music Ends] 

[05:10:25] Monica: What does that actually look like? When you’re talking about making education accessible? What would that be like [Laughs] to have that accessibility for everyone digitally for education and for voting? What will happen? What will change? 

[05:22:95] John: What our team does, we have a fine line between technology and humanity. And so what that means is we know we need to have automated solutions that can augment our actual human testers. And that’s what our whole focus is in. Our analysts are, many of whom have a disability themselves. And so, 70% of our organization has a disability, whether it be a visual disability or an invisible disability. We all have our own challenges and barriers. And in terms of accessing the web and we are able to bring those experiences to our testing process.  

[05:53:92] So, for instance, let’s talk about an education website. There’s a couple of workflows there. We really break it down into workflows. What are people trying to do when they go to that website? As a potential candidate or, want to enroll in classes, I’ve got to be able to apply for college or university or whatever technical trade school this is. If I can’t even apply, you’ve already lost out on people. And so that’s what we’re working on. We go through those user flows to make sure that people can actually accomplish what they’re trying to do when they come to your site. They can understand what your whole program’s about, and then we can actually help you make sure that people go through that. And we go through with actual testers. And if there is a barrier, we then identify, we do user videos, we then write down the issues, we then look at the code level,  and we say, “Here. This is the issue in the code that’s causing this problem and here’s our recommendation.” And so that’s how we’re able to work side by side with developers and designers to really make accessible and usable experiences for everyone.  

[06:48:60] Monica: And what are some of the barriers you’re seeing that are the most common?  

[06:51:85] John: Color contrast is a big one. I can’t see colors and my current vision is to the point where I can no longer really, I can’t tell what’s on the screen. But, from my colleagues and other folks who can see, who have low vision, or even people who are aging or don’t have their glasses with them, or they’re just tired from a long day’s work. Color contrast is really important. You’ve gotta have that high enough contrast levels to be able to make sure that people can read and understand what’s on the site. And so that’s something. But that can be tested through like color analyzers. But that’s going through and being intentional about making sure that your color palette is, you know, the way that you’ve had your colors laid out on top of each other is accessible. But that doesn’t mean that you have to change your branding to only have black and white, but we actually go through and we kind of show you best practices of using your own brand colors and guidelines to be able to use that. That’s just one example of an issue.  

[07:44:26] Other things, like for screen readers like myself — unlabeled buttons. That’s just so terrible. I just, you know, when I don’t know, I just see a button, that says “Button click here. Button.” I don’t know what that button is. That’s another thing that we see quite often. And also forms. I’m actually building out my own personal website right now and working with an organization and they put a form out there. And I don’t know, I mean, I put in the form, I’m like, “I don’t know if this is my first name, last name. I don’t know if I’ve missed something.” And so making sure that forms are accessible are a big piece, because we see forms a lot on call to actions, right? You know, if you’re applying for a job or if you’re trying to buy something, putting in your name, address. So forms are another big piece that we often see have some accessibility challenges.  

[08:26:04] Monica: We have a lot of different people who are listening – people who are making decisions for their company – what would you want them to change the most or the first to their websites? 

[08:34:18] John: Yeah. I mean, there’s a lot of things that you can do right away without even having any coding experience. For instance, making sure that you have captioning on your videos, right? That’s for people who can’t hear. Right? We want to make sure people have that on. Turn that on when you’re even on zoom calls and when you’re recording. You can get that on right away and that’s easy. Right? Make sure the transcripts are there. Those are things you can do right away.  

[08:55:62] Make sure that there’s a skip link, those are pretty easy to set up. If you don’t know what a skip link is, it’s a link that allows you to jump past the navigation. So screen reader users, like myself, we have to tab through or use our arrows. And if we have to go through your whole header, where you have like your blogs, your “about us”, your “contact”, we have to go through so many pieces of information to be able to get to the main information. But if you have a skip link, it can jump me all the way to that main information of your website. But once I see that, in my mind, it says, “Oh, this person gets it. At least they know something about accessibility because they have a skip link.” And what most importantly, I’d say, is put an accessibility statement on your website. Because if somebody has a challenge, they can go to that accessibility statement and just have a link to where to go if they need to get more help. So, give me accessibility at your domain name. I can contact you like, “Hey, I’m having trouble with this. Can you help me out?” And I think that that’s something that everyone can do right away. 

[09:52:54] Monica: Those are wonderful suggestions and  I definitely would love a lot more of those skip links. 

[09:56:89] John: Right? It’ll help everyone. See, that’s the best thing, right? These best practices will help all people, not just people who are blind. 

[10:03:87] Monica: I love what you’re saying, because that is something that I think is the keystone of accessibility, is it doesn’t even just help disability. It is a universal thing that everyone can appreciate. 

[10:14:41] John: Yeah. That’s the coolest thing about this, right? We think about curb cuts, that’s like the perfect example. We always talk about curb cuts, but it was designed for people with wheelchairs and I am somebody who has a five-year-old a three-year-old, but a couple of years ago, they were much smaller and we were, you know, pushing them in a carriage. And it’s interesting, because when I was buying a stroller for us, I was looking for a stroller which I could pull and also walk in front of it. Because, if I was pushing it, not being able to see, I didn’t want to put my kids in danger. I’d rather get hit first. But even that, being able to pull my stroller and go through the curb cuts is much easier than trying to lift it up, put it over, and if you’re traveling, you have your suitcase, you know, we all benefit from it. So, yeah, it’s not just for one group of people, but everyone will benefit from it.  

[10:57:27] But when we think about education systems, my belief is that education systems are there to prepare people to enter the workforce or further their education. And I really believe that if we want people to be successful in the workplace or in higher education, they’ve got to be able to use a keyboard and be able to use a computer and what I call the speed of business is listening to it at a high speed, that they can accomplish things that everyone else can at the same rate. And there is, we can work around it. We have the technology, we have the adaptations, and we just need to be able to set people up for success. 

[11:30:31] Monica: How do you see that, as setting people up for success? What would we do? 

[11:34:18] John: That kind of goes back to some of the things that we’re doing at Ablr works with our workforce development program is that we are seeing gaps that people aren’t being set up for success. And so, one of the things that we’re doing is really thinking about doing assessments before individuals go to college or go to the job. But we want to make sure these assessments aren’t to weed you out, but it’s to make sure that you have the training and prerequisites you need to be successful. Because one thing I noticed is that, if we don’t set them up for success, they lose their confidence. If we can keep, maintain, and build up people’s confidences when they go into the workplace, they’re going to be feeling much better about themselves. They’re gonna be able to do more. So, by doing these assessments, we can really find out, “Here, this is where you’re lacking, go through this training. Go through this course and we’ll get you trained up. And then you enter the job.” Cause it’s one thing about saying, “Oh, we want to hire people with disabilities in our workforce. We’re very inclusive.” But inclusion also means setting people up for success in providing training, accessible training. And I think that’s what we can do as leaders [Music] and employers can do that as well. [Music Ends] 

[12:34:12] Monica: I’m really curious. You are someone who hires people, and we’ve been seeing a huge move even before the pandemic, of more digital hiring, of more computer access with hiring, with finding people, with interviewing on zoom, with algorithms to even decide who to interview. How can this process become something that becomes more accessible? Is there things you would like to see in these hiring algorithms, in these ways of sifting through people, even before you get to talk to them? What are you seeing? What would you like to see? 

[13:02:74] John: You know, I think that… not knowing too much about how the algorithms are right now, but I do know that as I was coming out of my MBA program, I had a few things that may trigger concerns for any bot going through mine. Right? Cause I have a global career. I worked in Africa, I worked in India. I had a very global experience. And I remember, as many of my classmates, coming out of the MBA program, there was a lot of students from overseas. And when we’d go to these job fairs, they would say, “We don’t sponsor citizenships or green cards.” So, I had to put on my resume, “US Citizen.” Right? I had to put that out there.  

[13:41:70] And then, when it came to me being an assistive technology user, I want people to know now, like, I was scared about talking about my visual impairment on my resume, even though it is a big part of who I am. It’s what makes me unique. It’s the boards I serve on now. And I think that when we think about those types of things, it feels like, I’m hearing people just saying, “Just put these key words in”, but you know, if I see somebody who has gone through assistive technology training or has something like that on it, to me, that’s a problem-solver and I want those people. The algorithm’s not going to catch these problem solvers, these people with disabilities who overcome challenges every day of their life, who bring a lot to the table. And that’s going to get lost in any technology screening. 

[14:22:68] Monica: What do you think are some of the ways that employers can make a more accessible environment their employees, especially with now being at home a lot of the times and working from home? 

[14:33:87] John: I think that employers, you know, with working remote, we on our team, we have morning huddles. We spend a lot more time to really have that one-on-one time with the team that everyone gets together. Cause we realized that sometimes it can be very isolating when you’re working from home. We know that. And when you have a disability or other barriers you’re facing, it can even be amplified, right? That’s magnified some times. And so every day, have a few minutes on it and on Fridays we call it our “Mullet Meetings.” This is where we have business upfront and a little bit more extra time in the back to enjoy each other, and get to build that empathy for each other, and understand what’s going on. So, those Mullet Meetings on our side are really important. And I think that teams and employers really need to make some added time so that people get to understand, and get to know each other, and not just be a zoom face on the screen, but rather get to know the people. And I think that will also help with creating more accessible experiences cause people will feel more comfortable disclosing what they need to be successful. And, yeah, I hope that works.  

[15:34:15] Monica: Has there been anything that’s come up during these Mullet meetings that really sticks out in your mind as far as a thing that an employee asked for, for accessibility?  

[15:34:15] John: Yeah. It was during one of our Mullet meetings recently that one of our team members – he had a traumatic experience of how he lost his sight. He was in Afghanistan and he lost his sight there. And a lot of his friends are veterans and someone recently passed. And it was during this extended time period that we were able to understand that something’s going on here. Cause he was having some challenges. And so, my co-founder, Mike, he went out and grabbed that individual out for lunch. And we’ve been isolating for the pandemic, but he realized this is really important that we actually get that. We know this person needs some extra face time. And so being able do that. But that came from one of the Mullet meetings, was that we could understand because otherwise, it could have just gone under radar from just a regular 15-minute meeting or any other meeting where you’re just talking about work. But once you’re able to kind of open up a little bit, we were able to identify that. And, you should just hear that individual talk and say how thankful he was for that, just going out to lunch. Cause he needed that companionship. 

[16:38:11] Monica: That’s really beautiful. I love how you’re able to find this intersection between humanity and technological ways of [Music Plays] handling situations. [Music Ends] 

[16:46:51] What are some of the other accessible solutions that you’re hoping are going to become more common for the digital space for working? 

[16:53:09] John: So, there’s this really cool platform that we’ve been working with. It’s an organization called and Lazarillo. And Lazarillo, is, they’ve come out of Chile, but they are a wayfinding and also provide cited support to their users. And it’s interesting. I just did a LinkedIn Live interview with the founder yesterday. And, I called it an application that helps give people who are blind autonomy. And what I realized after the interview, was that this application is improving the quality of life. And what it is doing is providing this digital maps, wayfinding support, but then, if you’re going to a retail store, you can tap into a customer service agent while you’re there, and they can see where you are on the map in the store, and then you can turn on your camera and they actually help you navigate. 

[17:38:33] But think about what they’re doing in terms of a retail location. This can be done in a new business, a work environment. This can even be done at home, right? If you just need to be able to turn on your camera and be able to have people help you out. I mean it’s really cool stuff that can be done with augmenting technology and that human interaction. And you’re going to be really improving that employee experience by giving multiple ways of being able to help people.  

[18:03:63] Monica: That is really, really cool. And it leads right into another question I have for you.  

[18:06:33] John: [Laughs] 

[18:06:33] Monica: What are some of the technologies that are just right on the horizon that are really exciting to you? Even if they’re not here yet, what are you seeing where you’re like, “Oh, I can’t wait.” Like for me, it’s the autonomous driving cars. Like I cannot wait to be able to just get a car over to my house and drive me somewhere. What’s the thing you’re super excited about? 

[18:24:59] John: You know, what was really cool? Was the meeting I just had literally right before our recording was – I was just talking to General Motors and they have this innovation competition. And it’s going to be all about accessibility. And they are having me come and speak, cause they want to build empathy as these new innovators and designers and developers and they’re leaving it open-ended and let them go just build and come up with some innovation. And, General Motors is really having some cool stuff. They’re building out an entire accessibility team. So cool.  

[18:52:50] But then I also think, right now in XR, virtual reality and augmented reality, we’re kind of in the Wild, Wild West right now. But I think it’s a good stage for us to be right now because we can actually talk about accessibility right now. Let’s build it in so that before we get too far down this road, we can make sure that’s an accessible experience. Cause I think it can really benefit people with disabilities as we start to leverage XR for trainings and other experiences that could help with getting people into jobs.  

[18:06:33] Monica: I’m going to have you explain to everyone real quick what XR is. 

[19:21:05] John: Yeah. So, when we think about virtual reality and augmented reality, again I’m not an expert on this, but we’ve been doing some usability testing with it. So, it’s having the virtual reality experience – putting on those goggles and being able to also augment that with different experiences on the overlays and tops of it as you’re going through things. And one of the things I think about is they’ve been doing, being able put on your virtual reality glasses and be able to participate in an art museum, or a ballet or even in a virtual training. And so, I think that if we can make sure that these virtual experiences that we’re talking about can be accessible, it can really open up new opportunities for people.  

[19:58:62] Monica: Can I ask you to elaborate a little bit on what that would look like for someone who has visual disturbance?   

[20:03:61] John: Yeah. So, I think even having audio descriptions, but that’s gonna mean being able to have audio descriptions to be telling me what’s going on, explaining to me, right? What’s going on in this virtual environment. That’s something that a lot of people who are creating these experiences right now are not adding in. And so, the more we can start to add that in as part of it or being able to turn it on and off, that’s going to be something important because if you don’t build out the infrastructure now to think about that, it’ll more difficult to bolt that on later on.  

[20:31:82] Monica: What are ways that they can really build that in? So, we’re talking about a complete explanation of what’s going on in front of you in virtual reality world. And there is a documentary in virtual reality called “Notes on Blindness,” I believe. What are some of the things that you’re looking to that would actually allow for that sort of accessibility in virtual reality?  

[20:50:97] John: So, at least in my own experience, what I’d like to see is designers and developers of these applications and experiences, spending time with people who are blind. Getting to spend time, and I talk a lot about “proximity builds empathy”. Have people bring people in with varying abilities into your office. Talk to us. Spend some time with us. And as you get to go through and you understand the work around, things that we do to navigate the world and just to live, you can then build that into your own experiences. And that’s why I always talk about “proximity builds empathy” cause like, I share my story a lot because I want people to not think about accessibility as a line of code, but really think about it as a human experience. And so, when they’re building and designing, they’re like, “Oh, how would John experience that? What would help John now?” That’s what my hope is and so I think that’s what folks who are building out these new experiences can actually do is bring people in, start talking to people, and then much smarter people will be able to figure out new things.  

[21:46:69] Monica: I think you just brought poetry into technology and that was absolutely beautiful. I’m going to be thinking about those two sentences for a very long time.  

[21:54:02] Is there anything you can think of that would help people find the people they’re looking for? What are some of the tools that you use to find the people with the disabilities that you need to test out your products, to be a part of your team? How do you actively go out and look for those people or are they coming to you?  

[22:09:81] John: It’s kind of both ways, right? There’s an organization called Chronically Capable © that we’ve been partnering with and you know, Hannah Olson, if y’all don’t know Hannah, she’s such a lovely person, awesome advocate in our community and she’s a rock star. And, I think that, there’s a lot of great organizations doing great things, but a lot of organizations doing them in silos.  

[22:28:88] And so, we’ve been doing a lot to try to partner in and to share our experiences and work together. And that way it helps us spread the word that other people can find us. And so, that’s one we’ve been doing. So, there’s a push and pull, right? And then, we also are actively engaging on social media and trying to share stories, share experiences, so that people then get referred to us. And, right now that’s been a lot of it.  

[22:52:04] We did struggle in the very beginning be able to find folks to get jobs on my team. But when we did, a few years on our team, people started to move on to other companies and we realize, hey, there’s something here. We’re doing something good. We’re training people and they’re getting really high paying jobs afterwards. Let’s just keep training people. And word of mouth started spreading, at least here in North Carolina. And, we’re hoping through sharing stories and participating on awesome podcasts like this that we can get in touch with more people. 

[23:17:43] Monica: What are some of the ways that you’re advocating? 

[23:17:43] John: When I first moved back home from North Carolina – I moved back around five years ago and I came back because I left North Carolina 17 years ago because I didn’t think anyone who was blind could ever live in North Carolina. And I came back five years later. And when I came back, I met this individual who was blind and he said, “You’ve got to be open about your disability and you should reach out to all these companies who claim to have a DEI program.” So I did. I reached out to all these organizations who had these Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs in 2017. And all these big companies had it. I reached out, disclose my disability – not a single organization got back to me. And I started thinking, I was like – with my education, my experiences, and my privilege, if I’m struggling to find jobs with these companies, what about other people?  

[23:17:43] I got quite active in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion space and what I found was that it was a lot of HR and compliance people, legal individuals on this Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion task force and committees. And I realized I was the only person with a disability. And I was only person on the business side. And so, the more I got involved in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion space, I started being able to represent and advocate for digital accessibility and for race and gender disability inclusion. And so that’s how [Music Plays] we’ve been advocating. [Music Ends] 

[24:33:27] Monica: In a world where all technology advancement seems possible, I just feel like we’re right on some sort of amazing horizon. What is one thing you would just love, even if it’s not on the horizon, what is one thing you would really love to see developed? 

[24:47:24] John: Oh, gosh. I mean, if you ask me any technology, if I’m dreaming, like Sci-Fi [Laughs] No, I’d go teleportation because it goes back to the whole transportation barrier. I left North Carolina because I didn’t think anyone who was blind could ever live here was because of transportation. I traveled all around the world and moved to India because I could get a car and driver. And you mentioned it – having a self-driving vehicle would be awesome, but if I could transport somewhere, and also save time, that’s pretty cool. 

[25:14:82] Monica: My husband and I literally just had this conversation last night. [Laughs]  

[25:18:85] John: [Laughs] That’s where I’d go. Maybe the three of us would be able to transport to each other, do this podcast in person, and then we can go get some strollers and go through some curb cuts together. 

[25:27:97] Monica: If they actually do real curb cuts that would let my wheelchair go instead of just tipping me off into the street I am in! That would be fun. I love the idea of transportation and teleportation. I would love the idea that it would actually put my bones back together in the right place where I would like to be.  

[25:44:17] John: [Laughs] 

[25:44:17] Monica: That would be fabulous.  So yes, I’m all in for the full Star Trek.  [Laughs] But thank you so much for your time. I really appreciated talking to you. I hope we get to talk again. 

[25:54:32] John: This was so fun.  


[25:58:03] Monica (Recorded): Thank you so much for listening to my conversation with John Samuel. Creating accessible digital workspaces is so important because as John mentioned, “proximity builds empathy”. Many people don’t realize how many of us there are because we’re not as visible due to lack of access to the workplace and to transportation.  There may be a perception we don’t exist. It’s not that we’re not qualified or motivated or good enough. So that is what leaves us behind.  

[26:31:39] The ability to be visible, to be in a room with other employees and other students, it means that they understand and know who we are and what we are. And we’re able to show them the humanity and the everyday life of a disabled person. Our talent, our intelligence, our lived experience. It makes us problem-solvers. To go about daily life as a disabled person – it makes us uniquely qualified to think outside the box and to lose out on that kind of talent and thinking? That would be so limiting for any company or classroom. The only way that happens is through proximity and awareness. John’s work and the work of so many others is to make work and education spaces more inclusive for everyone. 

[27:32:95] The takeaway learnings from this episode are:  

[27:35:75] 1) Disability inclusion is an essential aspect of the modern-day workplace. Through removing barriers to reduce the digital divide companies can expand their outreach of qualified and talented workers. No matter their physical ability.   

[27:53:09] 2) Barriers to entry for employment goes beyond the workplace. Job training, applications, and contact forms – they have to be accessible to people of varying abilities as well.   

[28:06:06] 3) “Proximity builds empathy”. Accessibility is more than building codes and accommodating needs. It is about lifting up the human experience.   

[28:21:98] The actionable tips from this episode are.  

[28:25:91] 1) Explore hiring disabled workers. When creating increased methods of accessibility in your workplace these workers can bring their perspective to ensure that the problems that need to be solved are being prioritized. The perspectives of people of different lived experience can allow workplaces to bring in a variety of talent, no matter what their background, their location, or their physical abilities might be. 

[28:53:59] 2) Review your company’s website and look for those opportunities where you can add captioning to your videos and your video calls. Create transcripts for your audio content and try adding a skip link to your website.  

[29:09:10] 3) Think about placing an accessibility statement on your website that would allow the individual the opportunity to connect with a person for assistance. 

[29:21:76] For more information on John and Ablr360, check out our show notes. Every episode of Technically Sick has a page on where you can find the extended show notes including tips and takeaways, transcripts, and relevant resource links.  

[29:39:04] If you would like to share your own tips related to this topic, or connect with us, visit the Empowered Us contact page or reach out to us on our social channels. 

[29:49:79] Technically Sick is an Empowered Us original presented by Good Days, hosted by me, Monica Michelle. If you liked this episode, be sure to rate and subscribe to our show wherever you get your podcasts.   

[30:08:04] [Music Ends] 

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