I was recently invited to speak at Fuquay Varina High School to share my experiences as a blind professional, and to talk about the accessibility work that we are engaged in with LCI Tech Services. Civics & Diversity teacher, Greg Halkuff, reached out to me because he wanted to add the perspective of a person with a disability to his class discussion.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity Conference 2018 Panel photo
John Samuel, Timothy McClain and Willy Stewart at the event
I was moved by Greg’s resounding faith in his students – the next generation of leaders who will be starting and leading organizations in the years to come – and his desire to prepare them as best he can, with the knowledge and perspective to lead with compassion and inspire inclusivity.
Because of this, I shared my own personal story, and how I have overcome my loss of vision, to drive home these three points to the nearly 100 junior and senior students in the audience:
Advocate for yourself and others,
Set goals for yourself, and
Be adaptable to change.
My favorite part of the event came at the end when we opened the floor for students’ questions! From professional topics such as, “How can you manage a team if you cannot watch them?”, to personal questions such as, “How are you able to dream if you cannot see?”, there were many opportunities to participate in engaging dialogue. There was an innocence to many of the questions, while being quite insightful – leaving me to reflect on many of them over the next couple of days.
After listening to all of the questions, I now understand Greg’s high praise for his students! I hope that my story of setting goals and overcoming adversity inspires this next generation of leaders to view people with disabilities as equals, and become advocates for a more diverse and inclusive culture.