Each speaker drove home the vital No Barriers message that what's within us is stronger than what's in our way, symbolizing the strength of us individually and collectively to mentally overcome the mere physical obstacles. As Blue mentioned, and van Dyken made so present, the "minority" of those living with disabilities is the only minority we can all join at any given moment. And, while the speakers spoke, and the opening ceremony unfolded, at the side of the stage, with his service dog at his feet, artist Josh Bramblitt (who became blind after a series of strokes, and only took up painting AFTER losing his sight) painted THIS:
While some individuals, like Eric (right) were hacking their way to stand-up solutions for their wheelchairs, other wheelchair and mobility engineers were showing off their latest and greatest devices (ranging from $3,000 - $15,000, but allowing for all-terrain access), including this impressive tank/dozer tracking go anywhere sit-down/stand-up chair that we couldn't resist taking for a spin:
Inside the Innovation Village, we, too, exhibited how active we've been over the past few years, sharing stories and connecting with people for whom DIY solutions are often so helpful. Branden Cobb, Nick Serian and former intern Eric Garcia were on hand to lead people through an Eyewriter experience (built by Eric, which made up for the terrible fact he ate 40 chicken nuggets in one sitting en route to Utah).
The awesome organization "Segs4Vets" were on hand - and I bore first-hand witness to a young paraplegic being seated for the first time and then zooming off freely within mere seconds. These segway-type chairs are being made available to veterans primarily at present, and are built entirely in the US.
We were honored to be included in the No Barriers University line-up alongside Kiva's Jessica Hansen, Charity: Water's Robert Lee and echolocation expert (and president of World Access for the Blind) Daniel Kish, and were humbled with being awarded No Barriers' Innovation Award (below).
Founded by inspirational climber Erik Weihenmayer, who has climbed the tallest peak on each of the seven continents, and who last year kayaked the Grand Canyon's Colorado River (and who happens to also be blind) and pioneer Mark Wellman (the first paraplegic to scale Yosemite National Park's El Capitan), the No Barriers ideology isn't just a great concept, it's radically altering people's outlook on life, and ensuring that a full life lived isn't governed simply by the vessel in which it's housed.
We look forward to sharing more videos and words from this enlightening, motivating opportunity. Thanks, too, to No Barriers' Jennifer Lynch for making sure it happened - it's an experience each of us will live with for a long time.