Throughout this series, we’ve heard from experts within the disability community talk about the importance of expanding disability rights and adopting inclusive design practices to ensure access to the digital world for all users.
To a certain degree, they’ve all shared the same message: Society effectively made a choice to exclude certain groups of people from being able to access and enjoy the benefits of the wider world. In other words, governments intentionally discriminated against people simply because they were considered “different.”
By installing these human-made barriers against a significant segment of the population, people were forced to overcome various hurdles that we now consider illegal to gain employment, receive an education, and participate in civic life.
For many, that meant navigating a world designed exclusively for people deemed to be “able-bodied”—though even that premise is flawed considering that the majority of the human population will contend with some form of disability as they age.
When you take into account the various obstacles thrown their way, it's quite remarkable what people with disabilities have been able to accomplish, including in the years preceding the Americans with Disabilities Act and similar expansions of rights in other parts of the world.
One person in particular navigated this disturbingly unequal and discriminatory terrain and emerged from it as an accomplished computer programmer, father, and husband. His name is Rej Proulx and he’s Sam’s father. Both men are blind.
Of course, for anyone discovering this podcast for the very first time, Sam Proulx is the host of The InclusionHub Podcast and he works as the Accessibility Evangelist for leading accessibility testing platform Fable, which is based in Canada.
Sam and Rej sat down together for a raw and intimate conversation about what that experience was like for Rej. It’s the type of conversation that every child and parent hopes to share one day as the former matures and the latter is able to come to grips with a life filled with challenges, sacrifices, regrets, and accomplishments. In their household, fighting for accessibility and inclusion is a family affair.
“I don't think there are too many podcasts that are a father and son conversation,” says Sam. “And I don't think there are any that involve people with disabilities or folks who are blind, because, you know, that tends not to happen.”
We’re honored to bring this special conversation to you now, in October, which is recognized as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) in the United States, and DEAM globally. Given the length of their chat, we decided to break up this episode into two parts, so look out for Part II’s release later this month.
As we mentioned, our guest for this episode is Rej Proulx. Along with being Sam’s father—and what a fabulous job he did on that front—he spent more than three decades at IBM developing mainframe programs for some of Canada’s largest banks and premiering accessibility solutions to enable blind people to become programmers.
“I've been around talking computers for as long as I can remember,” Sam says, crediting his father.
To fully appreciate this rare conversation between a blind father-and-son duo, delivered via a podcast, we recommend you either listen or read the episode’s transcript.
As you’ll learn, Rej’s journey was riddled with potential roadblocks that he eventually overcame through determination and a personal apathy towards failure. Rej spent his formative years as a child at a school for blind students that was 700 miles away from his home and family. Long-distance schooling made communicating with family difficult, and the education itself was dated and lacking.
His first job after his schooling was as a fire department dispatcher in a small town. The role, which he was perfectly suited for because of his ability to speak both French and English, was transformative.
“It demonstrated that ‘Yeah, I could, I could do stuff,’ you know? Like, I was hireable. And it demonstrated to the town, yeah, they could accommodate me. Now, I didn't stay there because there was no future in that…But it was kind of a stop-gap, a wonderful experience where I made a lot of friends and it undid a lot of damage that the School for the Blind did.”
Listen to The InclusionHub Podcast
To learn more about Rej's experience, check out the full conversation. Be sure to listen to every episode and subscribe to The InclusionHub Podcast via your favorite podcast apps, and share the full series with your family and friends! Or, read along: Access this episode’s transcript now!
The InclusionHub Podcast is sponsored by our Founding Partners: Salesforce, a leading customer relationship management software provider; Morey Creative Studios (MCS), a HubSpot Diamond Partner Agency; Fable, a leading accessibility testing platform; and Be My Eyes, a free app connecting blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers.