Community Conversation: How one deaf/blind adventurer is changing lives

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — From climbing mountains, to running marathons, Bill Barkeley is an adventurer who travels the world, encouraging others to live life to its fullest.

 Bill’s accomplishments are impressive on their own.. but the fact that he’s *deaf and blind* makes him all the more awe-inspiring.

Legally deaf by the age of 5, bill graduated from grand rapids catholic central high school, earned his business administration degree from U-S-C and started a 25 year career as a sales and marketing director at Steelcase.

 In 1989 he was newly married, with a new baby.. and a new challenge: bill was going blind.

 his initial reaction:

 “A part of you dies. it’s just a feeling of shock, calmness, stillness, fear, things come into your mind like how can i be a father, how can i keep a job, what’s the next step of this, how fast will this happen?”

The answers didn’t come quickly- neither did acceptance.   he calls embracing his reality, a ‘process’,.

 He started taking adventures.  his first challenge was climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, becoming the first deaf-blind person to summit the mountain.

 He ran the Boston marathon twice, and has taken groups of deaf-blind children all around the world, including the amazon, Peru, and Spain.

  Bill has this to say about his work helping others, “By doing these adventures and the focus being others and then making other people more confident and stronger and realizing what’s within them is stronger than what’s in their way- that’s a gift that you give to someone that actually could change their life 

  Changing lives, and changing perceptions of people with disabilities    

   “The biggest message society can send us, whether we send it to ourselves or everyone around us is that this physical challenge that you may have is game over and it’s not. It’s really a game changer in your life”.

   Earlier this month, bill hiked the national parks in colorado and wyoming.

   For more details on his adventures, and to find out more about his non-profit called ‘no barriers’, go to his website www.billbarkeley.com

(Sponsored by Connecting with Community partners, Metro Health – University of Michigan Health, Mercantile Bank, and Grand Rapids Community Foundation)

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