Belo Cipriani had a successful career in Silicon Valley as a talent acquisition specialist for the likes of Google, Apple, and Ebay, the night a high school acquaintance assaulted him and left him blind. He went from someone who was sought after, valued and successful in business, to someone who society didn’t know how to interact with. He used this experience as a catalyst to create change.
The night he was assaulted, Belo had his teeth knocked out, a cracked jaw, and bruised ribs, but his eyes received the most trauma.
While the doctors tried everything to help him regain his vision and he had multiple surgeries, he was ultimately given the totally blind prognosis. He started rehabilitation immediately, and eventually went back to recruiting. There, he found himself frustrated with the way disability was treated.
“That’s where my career as an advocate began where I started saying, ‘if we really believe in diversity, you know why aren’t we looking at these issues that happen at a societal level. Why does diversity only include race and gender, why is disability this whole other world,’ and that’s what really started my writing career.”
Belo shares that as a gay man, he had always found comfort in literature where he saw examples of how others overcame challenges. However, when he looked to literature for examples and encouragement as a blind man, he struggled to find examples.
Disability and Inclusivity:
Belo encourages companies to consider how they can engage and meet this audience’s needs not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because they will receive a huge return on investment. This is because nobody else is marketing to those with disabilities.
While not every business might be able to meet all of the needs, Belo references certain baselines of inclusivity that should be standard.
Perseverance and Resilience:
Belo credits his support network for helping him find perseverance and resilience in the face of his disability. Both his mother and sister dropped what they were doing to help him recover.
“Part of the reason why I like to write… is because I want to create content for people who are in this place where they are new and they don’t know where to turn, and this may be a resource for them to help them find the right path.”
Fruits of the Struggle:
Belo likens how he handled his experience to swimming. You have to relax and move with the current, and then you can swim back to shore.
He also shares that he has become more patriotic as he has traveled to other countries that don’t provide rights for those with disabilities. He is grateful for the ADA, and the supportive San Francisco blind community.
“If I could get anything across in this podcast, it would be to just tell any business owner, or any business leader or manager that adjusting is just a skill that we all need to work on because it is necessary to thrive.”
Check in with your business success, and see if the happiness or success you have is sustainable, and be ready to adjust.