National Disability Employment Awareness Month – an amazing man leading an amazing organization, Part 1

John Samuel, Technology Services Manager, LC Industries

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and this two-part blog features John Samuel, and the organization he is helping transform, LC Industries. On September 6, I visited John at his office on the LC Industries manufacturing campus, and then was given a quick tour of the facility. Originally, I was only going to write about the organization, but John’s story is so compelling, I need to make this a two part blog. So, part one – about John.

STAN: I believe you came to LC Industries about a year ago, in September 2017. Could you tell me a little bit, about how you got here?

JOHN: Actually, it started back around the year 2000 when I was pursuing my accounting degree at NC State. I was then first diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, commonly abbreviated R. P., and slowly started losing my vision. This is a much different journey from someone who is born blind. The condition worsened and by the time I graduated, my vision was even too poor to drive.


STAN: So what were your initial jobs like?

JOHN: I started my career in Finance, working in Bangalore (India) and New York City. Both locations were ideal for me, since I did not need to drive. Then in 2009, I went to Cameroon (Africa) to start and lead a telecommunication infrastructure company, and by this time, I was considered legally blind.


STAN: How did you cope with your work? I am sure you have to sift through many reports and numbers.

JOHN: Even in college, I found ways to cope and adapt. For example, I discovered it was far easier to read white print on a black background as my sight worsened, so I simply inverted the color of the computer screen. I figured out many life hacks like this, which helped me get things done.


STAN: And so what did you do after your stint in Cameroon?

JOHN: I decided to go back to school in Washington, DC and get my MBA. When I was at the George Washington University, I worked with the faculty and staff in the Disability Student Services office, to get the accommodations I needed to complete the program. However, when I started to apply for jobs, I realized that many organizations did not have accessible websites, which severely limited by ability to apply online for jobs. At this stage, I still was not completely open about my own blindness, and this was holding me back.


Many of the excellent LC Industries quality products for US Armed Services personnel on display

STAN: And so did things change? What were your next steps?

JOHN: Yes, things did change, but it took me some time. It was only after I read about Ed Summers, Director of Accessibility at SAS Institute, who developed a software that enabled blind users to visualize graphical information using sound. In addition, I wanted to connect with him not only because of the software he developed, but he was living with blindness in my hometown of Cary. Serendipitously, after months of not being able to connect with Ed, my father saw a blind man walking on the road and surprisingly enough it was Ed. (Link to news article about Ed Summers and his work.) Knowing that I wanted to move back home, Ed then introduced me to LC Industries, where they were looking to start a new technology services business, which was a great fit for my background. In this role, I know I have an opportunity to help remove many of the barriers I faced.

STAN: John, thank you for sharing your fascinating journey with me, and I do hope many who read this will get inspiration and valuable insight for their own journeys. Now, let us talk more about LC Industries.

And now here is the link to part 2 – more about LC Industries.

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My previous blogs for National Disability Employment Awareness Month:

2014: Bridge II Sports – a cool organization engaging people with disabilities through various sports.

2013: Support via a wonderful organization, Enable America.

And also: A theater organization supporting performers with disabilities, Theater Breaking Through Barriers.

Why Highlight Someone’s Diversity? Aren’t we all Humans?

Michael Sam was co-SEC conference defensive player of the year in 2013 at the University of Missouri and was the first active NCAA college football player to come out as gay.  (Photo from nbcnews.com)

Michael Sam was co-SEC conference defensive player of the year in 2013 at the University of Missouri and was the first active NCAA college football player to come out as gay. (Photo from nbcnews.com)

NOTE: This blog does contain several links to other interesting pertinent blog entries – please do explore them!

When I publish blogs like my recent “Seven Fabulous Out Gay Men of Figure Skating,” I always sit back and shudder, waiting for the comments like “Why do you have to point out that they are gay? It’s completely irrelevant.” I received several comments in that vein when I wrote a blog (link)about the coming out of college football star Michael Sam. One person wrote on my Facebook page about the post, “Who cares if this dude is gay?” And another more outrageous comment: “This people making more of a deal out of gay sports stars than being a Christian is getting old ! We are a nation built on god guns and freedom, not giving a broke **** if you’re gay or straight.”

So I am going to ask a few questions:
• Is it important to highlight women who become CEOs of major global corporations?

Ginni Rometty as CEO of the highly respected huge global company of IBM serves as an excellent role model for women aspiring to senior leadership roles in the corporate world.

Ginni Rometty as CEO of the highly respected huge global company of IBM serves as an excellent role model for women aspiring to senior leadership roles in the corporate world.


• How about African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans or Asian-Americans who achieve great accomplishments in business or government?
• How about a person who overcomes a major physical disability to excel in a sport or in the business world? I am a big fan of a local group here in North Carolina called “Bridge II Sports” which I highlighted in a past blog “My 2014 National Disability Employment Awareness Month Blog – Bridge II Sports.”
• How about people with learning disabilities who become fully productive members of our society?
"Bridge II Sports" is an excellent organization demonstrating that people with physical disabilities can participate in rigorous activities.

“Bridge II Sports” is an excellent organization demonstrating that people with physical disabilities can participate in rigorous activities.


I feel there are two very important reasons to highlight a person’s diversity in this way:

1) It is great to have a wide range of diverse role models so that children growing up will get the strong message that nothing should hold you back from achieving your dreams. With all the negative messages out there around various diverse groups, we all need these positive role models and examples.

2) And it highlights the strengths and advantages of diversity. Companies, teams, countries are stronger when they can embrace the wide diversity that each unique person can contribute to the group.

And we should also remember when highlighting diversity, that straight white men are also a critical part of our rich diversity mix! (see my blog “Diversity and Straight White Men – 4 Key Thoughts”)