Cyclist without full arms or legs will again ride the length of canal

Staff Reports Posted 23 June 2016 at 12:00 am

John Robinson starts trip on Sunday

File photos by Tom Rivers – John Robinson is pictured last June 30 on his third ride along the Erie Canal, going 363 miles from Buffalo to Albany. He is pictured with his wife Andrea. They are close to the Main Street lift bridge in Albion.

John Robinson and his friend Doug Hamlin are again riding the Erie Canal towpath to highlight inclusivity, showing that people with disabilities are capable of big feats.

Robinson and Hamlin also are using the trip from Buffalo to Albany to celebrate launch of New York Business Leadership Network, a coalition among businesses in New York State interested in both hiring and building supplier diversity of businesses owned by individuals with disabilities.

John Robinson meets with people with disabilities last June 30 when he stopped at The Arc of Orleans County.

Robinson and Hamlin will spend 12 days riding bicycles about 350 miles across upstate New York via the historic Erie Canalway Trail. The two men are partners in Glenmont-based Our Ability, a network of consulting, public speaking, recruitment and professional services that champions the inclusivity of people with disabilities in the workplace.

“Each year our journey aims to raise awareness of the ability inside all people with disabilities,” said Robinson. “Along the way, we will connect with athletes and other individuals with disabilities and promote inclusive tourism along the historic Erie Canal.”

Robinson was a congenital amputee without full arms and legs. He overcame countless obstacles to become a successful businessman, husband, father and inspirational speaker.

In 2011 he founded Our Ability (click here for more information) with Hamlin, a 28-year veteran of the software industry who is also disabled as the result of an accident in 1983. At Our Ability they help to mentor and inspire people with disabilities through positive video stories. In 2014, Robinson was one of 10 people nationally named a White House Champion of Change for Disability Employment.

The New York Business Leadership Network was formed by Our Ability in December of 2015 in response to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2014 executive order establishing the Employment First Commission to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities in New York. The executive order calls for 100 businesses to commit to formal policies to hire people with disabilities as part of their diversity strategy.

“NYBLN’s dual goals are to inspire those individuals with disabilities to achieve their dreams through education and employment as well as to educate able-bodied individuals about the differences in ability around us,” Robinson said.

John Robinson, left, and his friend Doug Hamlin, right, ride adaptive use bicycles along West Bank Street in Albion in this photo from July 1, 2014.

This year’s canal trip begins in Buffalo’s Canal Side Park and concludes on July 8 at Jennings Landing in Albany. As the tour makes its way across New York, numerous advocacy groups and organizations supporting the rights of people with disabilities will join Robinson and Hamlin for parts of the trip.

Robinson was inspired to undertake the first Journey Along the Erie Canal by his wife, Andrea, and two children after receiving a three-wheeled, hand-operated cycle as a donation. His family helped him learn how to ride and then train for the statewide journey. Hamlin joined Robinson that first year and saw what the ride could symbolize. He will once again ride alongside Robinson on his own specialized hand cycle.

As in past years, Our Ability’s partners for the journey include New York State Industries for the Disabled, Inc. (NYSID), New York State Canal Corporation, the Disability Education Forum of New York, Inc., the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, and NYSARC, Inc.

“The New York State Canal Corporation is thrilled to partner with Our Ability for the fourth annual Journey Along the Erie Canal,” said Canal Corporation Director Brian Stratton. “John and Doug are an inspiration to us all. Their message of inclusion and support can be extended to all facets of life and across all borders. We are proud that once again the Erie Canal and Canalway Trail will serve as the background of such a worthy cause.”