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Ike Tallerine and Tom Lounibos have many things in common—both are athletic, ambitious and visually impaired.
And neither let being blind get in the way of living life on their terms.
Born generations apart and losing their sight at different stages of their lives, they share similar personal and professional experiences as they bond over finding the light through their visual impairments.
Accessibility inspired by attitude
Ike, a Senior Analyst who supports financial activities for Accenture’s top clients, was born completely blind. His genetic disorder, achromatopsia, causes near vision, light sensitivity, eye fatigue and migraines. After gaining some vision at age four, Ike let his determination steer him toward graduating from Texas Tech University with a Master of Science in finance, and he’s now building a successful career at Accenture.
Tom, a global Managing Director and President of Accenture Ventures, was born with full vision. A six-time Silicon Valley innovator, entrepreneur and athlete who played baseball for the Minnesota Twins, Tom lost sight in both eyes much later into his adult life after experiencing a detached retina. Tom is also co-chairman of Accenture’s Technologies Disabilities Committee.
One of the biggest barriers to workplace accessibility is not technological or architectural, but rather attitudinal, according to Accenture’s Getting to Equal 2020: Disability Inclusion research.
Ike and Tom discuss how both attitude and technology are game changers.
Seeing opportunities, not obstacles
Tom: Ike, something you said which encapsulates your story: You don’t see obstacles; you only see opportunities. Can you explain what you mean?
Ike: Everyone has some challenge they struggle with. They might be physical, emotional or environmental. When I knew I couldn’t use my eyes to navigate the world, I had a choice: make excuses, or push past the challenges. Aren’t we all battling these opposing forces? I decided I would prove to myself that if others could do it, I could, too.
For me, disability inclusion is being open minded, knowing that not all disabilities are visible.
Tom: I agree! Being new to having a disability, I now understand why it’s so important to talk about it. I encourage people to share their journey so we can help others. I find that the more we drive awareness and educate, the less of a disability, disabilities actually are.
Ike: When you lost your sight after your career was already in full swing, what strategies helped you cope?
Tom: When I started to lose my sight, I was in the middle of selling a startup business and starting a new one. I was CEO of the San Francisco Olympic Committee. I was scared to death, but I knew I had to move forward. I didn’t let what was happening slow me down.
One of the lessons I learned is that each one of us has human resiliency that we’re unaware of—we just need to activate it.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable
Tom: What’s important to know about working with people with different abilities?
Ike: It might be uncomfortable to talk about disabilities, but having an open dialogue is really important. The simple gesture of asking someone if they are okay or if they need help do their jobs, makes a huge difference. The obvious truth is that nobody’s perfect; no one has it all figured out. Colleagues really need to have each other’s backs. Thankfully, I’m part of a team that makes this possible.
Game changer: tech advancement
Tom: How has technology impacted your life? Has it helped you in your career journey?
Ike: Technology advancement is a game changer. When I was in school and before computers were widely available, I used magnifying glasses to see what teachers wrote on blackboards. It’s much easier now.
With the help of my computer, I’m able to zoom in and out to navigate information quickly. I also use applications that ensure my spelling and citations are correct. With low vision, it’s easier to overlook mistakes. I also change the color of backgrounds on my computer so it’s easier to see things. Being light-sensitive, using a dark background helps reduce eye fatigue.
Accenture provides the technology, accommodations and employee benefits that help me be successful. It’s a great company culture that continually practices inclusion.
Tom: Technology defined my freedom. It defined my access, and I believe you must look for tools and capabilities that will help you.
Tom: What advice would you give to people just starting their careers who may be struggling with mental or physical challenges?
Ike: A disability can sometimes be an excuse not to try, but you’ve got to look past that. Shoot for the stars, aim higher, and don’t worry about what’s outside of your control. Focus on making yourself better, as that’s all you can control.
From digital accessibility and flexible work arrangements to accommodations, Accenture’s culture of equality empowers our people to contribute value in meaningful ways.
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