A 370-mile bike ride along the 370-mile Erie Canalway Trail looks to highlight the contributions of people with disabilities in the workplace.
John Robinson and Doug Hamlin began their fifth annual Journey Along the Erie Canal, a 12-day bicycle ride across upstate New York on Monday.
The two 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,” Robinson said in a press release. “Five years ago, our dream was to increase employment for people with disabilities in New York state. In part, our journey has achieved this goal. We have businesses who work with us and employ people with disabilities. It is a dream come true.”
The ride will make a stop in Clyde at approximately 4 p.m. at 58 Water St. on Thursday. It will then depart the Wayne County village on Friday at 8:30 a.m. Previous stops in the county have included Wayne ARC.
This year’s ride highlights the growth of the 30 business-member New York Business Leadership Network, a coalition interested in both hiring and building supplier diversity of businesses owned by individuals with disabilities.
The NYBLN was formed by Our Ability in December of 2015 in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2014 executive order establishing the Employment First Commission to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities in New York.
“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,” explained Robinson.
The tour began in Buffalo and concludes on July 7 at Jennings Landing in Albany. As it 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.
Born as a congenital amputee without full arms and legs, Robinson overcame many obstacles to become a successful businessman, husband, father and inspirational speaker. In 2011, he founded Our Ability with Hamlin, a 28-year veteran of the software industry who became 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.
Robinson was one of 10 people nationally named a White House Champion of Change for Disability Employment in 2014.
He said he was inspired to undertake the first Journey Along the Erie Canal by his wife, Andrea, and two of his 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 is riding 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 Corp., the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, and NYSARC, Inc.
NYSID President and CEO Ron Romano said the organization “is privileged to join with the New York State Canal Corporation, NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and other sponsors of this motivating example of giving meaning to miles.”
“We are proud that the Canalway Trail offers a memorable experience that is accessible to everyone. That experience will be greatly strengthened and enhanced by 2020, when Governor Cuomo’s Empire State Trail opens and there will be a dedicated 750-mile trail network from New York City to Canada,” said Brian U. Stratton, Canal Corp. director.