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John Samuel

Take 5 with John Samuel of Ablr

John Samuel

John Samuel 
Co-Founder + CEO
Ablr 360

Alma Mater: NC State University, Accounting

About Ablr 360: Ablr is a Disability Inclusion and Digital Accessibility company. Our mission is to remove barriers for all people with disabilities. We do this by eliminating the digital divide, changing the mindsets of people and organizations, and creating pathways for employment. Our team is comprised of professionals with disabilities, and we live the principle of “nothing about us, without us.” Today is the day to make change.

What makes you excited to go to work each day?

One thing that makes me excited to go to work every day is to engage with my team! We have a wonderful group of amazing people, who are all enthusiastic about our mission of removing barriers for people with disabilities. Our team is made up of people with and without disabilities, and we all learn from each other. Sometimes working in this space is extremely draining and challenging but seeing the growth of our team reminds me why the work we do is so important, and that is awesome!

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

There are a couple of things that will surprise people about me. First, I am born and raised in Cary – a lot of people do not think there are native folks from Cary, but I am living proof that there is! My parents moved to Cary in 1980, when my dad was working for a company called Northern Telecom, or also known as Nortel, and since then it has been their home. More recently, I just closed on buying my parents’ house which they have been living in for the past 29-years, and I will now be raising my own kids in the same house I grew up in!

The second thing that often surprises folks is the fact that I am blind. I was diagnosed with a degenerating eye condition when I was in college and have been losing my sight over the past two decades. It is something that I struggled to accept, but over the past five years, it is something that I have learned to embrace, and it has totally changed my life!

Why are you involved with NC TECH and what's your favorite activity or event?

My first interaction with NC Tech Association came in 2020, when I was asked to provide the Keynote for the inaugural Diversity + Inclusion Conference. It was supposed to be in person, but NC Tech quickly pivoted and did not skip a beat, and it became the first virtual event that I participated during the pandemic. I was amazed by the huge turnout and engagement of people from a variety of companies in the area and beyond, and I realized that this was an organization that we wanted to be associated with! Now with in person events coming back, I am super excited to take part in the NC Tech conferences and meet so many people in the flesh, who I have built relationships over the past couple of years!

What's your favorite hidden gem in North Carolina?

Over the past year, my wife, kids, and I have been traveling to new towns across the State, and one of our favorite spots is a small town in Eastern North Carolina called Edenton. A lot of people do not realize that Edenton was the capital of the State from 1722 – 1742, but now this small town is hidden away in the Inner Banks. Edenton has a beautiful Inn, quaint shops, a fun playground, and a lighthouse which you can go in to, which adds up to a great spot when you have two little kids!

What are two things on your bucket list (things you want to accomplish or experience in your lifetime)?

I have been able to cross off several bucket list items over the years, including summitting Mt. Kilimanjaro and giving a TEDx Talk! However, I still have a few other things on my list, including completing a triathlon and dogsledding to the North Pole.

In 2015, I almost achieved by goal of completing a Triathlon, but at the last minute I bailed on completing the swim portion, which took place in the Potomac River in Washington DC, and I have vowed to redeem myself!

If you were a character from the fictional world (movies, shows, books) who would you be and why?

It’s not quite a fictional character, but I would love to be Hugo, the mascot for the Charlotte Hornets! Hugo’s job is to get folks excited about the game and get fans rooting for the team. As a kid, I remember watching Hugo on TV, and during halftime, he would even do acrobatic moves while jumping off a trampoline, soaring through the sky before dunking the basketball! Hugo brings a smile to everyone around him - Not to mention, he gets the best seats in the house, which is just a bonus!

There is so much entertainment available these days - give us a recommendation for a favorite television or podcast series.

I recently have been watching a show on YouTube called Hot Ones, which is an interview series where the host, Sean Evans, asks celebrities questions, while they are eating hotter and hotter chicken wings! The show intrigues me on multiple fronts. First, Sean Evans is a wonderful interviewer, and I am learning a lot about being a host, since I have my own LinkedIn Live show called All Access, where I interview leaders, advocates, and entrepreneurs working in disability inclusion. Second, I find it hilarious how different people handle the heat of the wings, from hallucinating to crying! it’s a great way to put away the stresses of your work and daily life for twenty minutes and wonder how hot those wings really are!

John is a Tech Talk speaker in our upcoming 2022 Leadership Summit on August 10 + 11 in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Learn more here.



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New in 2022, The Take 5 series features brief 5 question interviews with leaders who are making an impact within their organization and in the community. The interviews are shared in the monthly e-newsletter, blog and through social media.

Visit our Marketing Toolkit page for a submission form. Questions? Contact Rachel Kennedy.
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