30 Months Later, Reflecting on the 30%

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By John Samuel

During my first couple of weeks at LCI, I was writing my thoughts and feelings, which took the form of a blog. At the time, I had no place to post them, and I think it was more therapeutic for myself than anything else.  But today I’m so thankful I took the time to write!  As I reflect over the past thirty months, there have been some amazing changes… and sadly, some things have not.

70%. This is a number that keeps popping up. Prior to joining LCI, I had no idea about the staggering unemployment rate of blind and visually impaired people. But every day when I do research for building LCI Tech, our technology services business, I keep seeing this number.

And every time this number is mentioned, I feel we empower it.

That’s why I want to celebrate the 30% of people who are working.  Every day when I walk into the LCI office, I see dozens of blind and visually impaired workers navigating the factory floor and pumping out quality products, and I hear our customer service reps helping our hundreds of clients with their various needs. These are the people and statistics we need to focus on. Don’t get me wrong, I understand there’s a fundamental problem and we need to address the lack of job opportunities and the skill gap that exists.  And most importantly, the issue of accessibility.  I strongly believe the answer to lowering the unemployment rate lies within the people who are coming to work every morning.

Over the next few months, I plan to speak to other blind and visually impaired workers to understand what drives them not to be a statistic. I will be honest, my intentions for this exercise are purely selfish. At the end of the day I hope to learn how to continue building my team and recruit the gems hidden in the 70%.

UPDATE

This blog holds a special place with me because it was the very first thing I wrote when I joined LCI 30 months ago! However, the topic of focusing on the 30% has come up multiple times in recent weeks.

When I wrote this, I was just starting my journey toward embracing my own disability and becoming an advocate for my community. The extent of my interactions with others who were blind was listening to them work outside my office door. How things have changed!

Today there are 10 people on the LCI Tech team and 70% of the team is blind or low vision.  Unfortunately, we still can’t say the same for the employment rate nationally.

At LCI Tech, we initially focused on providing digital accessibility services.  Now we’re looking to expand our offering and build a Workforce Development Program to address the skills gap for young people who are blind. Our goal is to ensure that these individuals will be prepared for higher education and employment. It’s in the design phase of this program where our team has realized the importance of speaking to those who are employed today and learn from their experiences.

This idea of talking with successful people with disabilities has also spurned a new series, All Access with John Samuel, where I conduct interviews with folks working in a variety of industries, sectors, and areas to learn from their experiences, successes, and challenges. My hope is that all people will be inspired to see past their own obstacles and to keep moving!

As we build out this new interview series, I’d love to hear from you on who you think I should be interviewing! Send me a message, or leave a comment, and I hope I will be able to bring their stories to you!

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