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A journey to highlight ability

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 June 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – John Robinson is making his third ride along the Erie Canal, going 363 miles from Buffalo to Albany. He is pictured at about 11:15 this morning with his wife Andrea. They are close to the Main Street lift bridge in Albion.

This time the journey has been harder. The rain has softened the towpath, making it mushy and requiring more push from Robinson to move his adaptive use bicycle.

Robinson is pictured on East Bank Street, headed to the former Grammar School on East Academy Street.

Owen Robinson, 12, joins his parents Andrea and John on the bike ride, which took a brief detour off the canal today in Albion so the family could meet residents served by The Arc of Orleans County.

Robinson, 46, stopped in Albion late this morning. He visited developmentally disabled residents served by The Arc of Orleans County. Robinson, who was born without arms and legs, was given a big reception and he happily greeted residents and posed for pictures.

He has made promoting abilities and skills of the disabled to businesses and government officials. He wants people with disabilities to have a shot at employment. When they can’t work, he wants there to be services in place so they can remain part of the community.

John Robinson is praised by Donna Saskowski, executive director for The Arc of Orleans County. She also leads the state ARC chapter in Genesee County.

“We’re doing everything we can to advocate for people with disabilities at the local, county, state and national levels,” Robinson said during a reception at the former Grammar School in Albion, where The Arc provides services. “We’re trying to make a better life and a better economic opportunity for people with disabilities.”

Robinson in October was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” for his efforts to connect disabled residents to jobs.

Robinson lives in the Albany suburb of Glenmont. He is managing partner and CEO of Our Ability, a company that supports people with disabilities.

Robinson meets with local developmentally disabled residents.

He recalled when he first stopped in Albion two years and was struggling on the bike ride. He didn’t think he would be able to get to Albany, about 300 miles away.

But a big crowd of residents, including local officials and many disabled residents, gave him a huge welcome, including a quilt with blocks showing their support for his trip.

Robinson keeps that in his office. He is also a motivational speaker and he shares how the enocuragement from the Albion group lifted his spirits during a trying time.

“You guys inspired me to keep going,” Robinson told a group of about 30 people today. “I mention Albion, NY, and Orleans County every where I go.”

Andrea Robinson rides behind her husband John and their son Owen as they go down East Bank Street today in Albion.

The Robinsons started today’s trip in Medina and plan to go to Spencerport at the end of the day. It will take about two weeks to travel the canal.

They are traveling with Robinson’s business partner Doug Hamlin, a para-palegic who is using an adaptive use bicycle. Hamlin was slowed today because of the rain and soft towpath.

Robinson said he hopes their example will inspire the community to look past the disabilities and see the abilities in everyone.

He said he was encouraged after the visit at The Arc today.

“Everybody in here has a will to live and has a family that wants the best for them,” he said. “We’re trying to send the message that we are people with ability.”

For more on Robinson and Our Ability, click here.