No Barriers provides transformative experiences that empower people to discover the potential that lies within themselves, the world, and the human spirit.
The organization offers three programs as part of No Barriers USA: Global Explorers youth travel programs, Soldiers to Summits for veterans, and the No Barriers Summit for all.
Your professional life is dedicated in part to speaking to Fortune 500 companies about what you call the No Barriers mindset. Can you describe that mindset and why it is applicable in the business world?
A: What’s within you is greater than what is in your way. No Barriers is a community that believes any person can use transformative life experiences to inspire people with challenges to live rich and fulfilling lives. We help people embrace assistive technologies and use the backdrop of nature to help people establish a bold vision for themselves.
Corporations spend a lot of time talking about vision, purpose and mission statements. They do not spend enough time helping people with disabilities, nor do they assess themselves and what they are driven by and then tie that into the objectives of the business enterprise.
What advice would you give to employers about the value of a diverse workforce that includes people with disabilities?
A: I’d rather work and build teams around people who have responded to the adversity question in their lives and found ways to get the skills and experiences necessary to contribute to my organization. They are motivated to find solutions, contribute, and build a life in the context of what they can and can’t do. If you have an open corporate culture that values the individual and they are comfortable sharing themselves with others, then it builds a strong culture where everyone shares without reprisal. People who have succeeded with disabilities have found different paths to the same goal. At times, they more quickly identify what they can and can’t do and devise ways to a new solution to the goal. This speaks to creativity, innovation, resourcefulness, determination, perseverance, and more.
I imagine many companies might be intimidated by hiring someone with a disability, what would you say to these companies?
A: Once employed, you find that the cost of accommodating an employee with a disability is quite low. You will also find higher rates of loyalty and retention, and lower rates of absenteeism. These people suffer very tough economic circumstances during the course of their lives and they are very grateful to have a job and benefits. It builds self-esteem in our communities to have everyone participate in the workforce.
Why do you think the No Barriers mindset and mission are important to the world today?
A: 60% of all people in the U.S. will experience a disability of some kind lasting six months or more in their lifetime. People simply do not envision that they will be hit with disability at some point. Worse yet, American values of independence and its history of not integrating people with disabilities has led to people feeling marginalized and having very low levels of self-esteem. We need to change that and help people see that in the face of disability, at whatever age in life, there is still a great life to be lived and you can contribute.