Erik Weihenmayer Speaks Out about National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Head shot of Joe Strechay

I am the American Foundation for the Blind’s CareerConnect Program Manager, which means that I manage our career exploration, job seeking skills, navigating the employment process, and e-mentoring program. APH CareerConnect is a part of the same AFB family of websites as VisionAware. I wanted to deliver a message from a friend to VisionAware readers for National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).

Attending the No Barriers Summit

In July 2015, I had the opportunity to attend the No Barriers Summit, an organization and event built around breaking down barriers and celebrating the No Barriers Lifestyle. Erik Weihenmayer is vice-president of No Barriers. The event includes fabulous speakers who have overcame and created innovation to overcome barriers. The attendees are individuals with disabilities and persons dealing with all kinds of obstacles. I can honestly say that I have never attended an event that creates access to so many sports and events for youth and adults. Individuals were kayaking, climbing, and doing all kinds of activities.

Talking to Erik Weihenmayer

Recently, I connected with Erik Weihenmayer, world renowned adventurer, mountain climber, author, speaker, and barrier breaker. I left out that he happens to be blind, as it really doesn’t impact the fact that he has summitted the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. He has navigated the length of the Grand Canyon in the Colorado River in a solo-kayak.

Erik W. ascending a mountain top with a group of climbers

Advice from Erik

For NDEAM, I wanted to bring Erik’s advice and input to VisionAware.

VisionAware: What advice would you have for a person who is new to vision loss and struggling to figure out what is next?

Erik Weihenmayer: Great questions, People are often getting stuck, suspended. Being part of clubs teams is so important, and you need to get out there and do things. Get out there and not be afraid of bleeding and flail around a little bit. You have to understand it is a head thing. We are all dying and being reborn. You have to say goodbye to sight, sever your relationship to who you are and who you could have been. You have to move forward as this new person. The question is a dead-end question. Let the other stuff go.

VisionAware: What would you suggest to help him/her overcome real and perceived barriers?

Erik Weihenmayer: Surround yourself with the right people. Choose the people who will be the right kind of friends and mentors. Who believe in your possibilities. You are blessed if you can unite with people.

You have to cut the nay sayers, the people who don’t believe in you and the possibilities.

Joe Strechay: What were your favorite moments at your past No Barriers Summits?

Erik Weihenmayer: At breakfast at one summit, I found out that one person was struggling with obesity, and he lost 100 pounds so he could attend the No Barrriers Summit. This was his No Barriers Pledge. Another individual had a full heart transplant, but now is more active than most people I know. I asked a 14 or 15 year old who was blind what he thought of the event, and he told me that he had never been off the pavement or sidewalk before this event. There was a woman who was struggling with severe anxiety. A man was at the event, who said he came to the event to find out about technology that would allow him to make it up his stairs in his home. We are all trying to breakdown the barriers. That is a big piece of magic.

Joe Strechay: The fact is Erik Weihenmayer lives a No Barriers Lifestyle, as he doesn’t let barriers stop him from pushing the limits to success. This doesn’t mean that he just does something because someone says that he can’t do it. He is an enlightened man who is calm and collected. Take the time to read about APH CareerConnect’s successful mentors who are blind or visually impaired in the Our Stories section. You will find stories that inspire and educate about their path to success in life and employment. The APH CareerConnect Blog offers innovative advice and information on a regular basis. Read the current posts and check out the archive for the past posts. You might find the advice that helps you connect with your next job or move up the employment ladder.

Visit the No Barriers Summit website and find out all of the details about the organization and event. The next No Barriers Summit is at Copper Mountain in Colorado from June 23 to 26, 2016.

No Barriers Summit Information

Where: Copper Mountain, CO

When: June 23 – 26, 2016