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Farther Higher Than the Eye Can See, What a Leader Makes

Posted on the 05 March 2013 by Fadi Bejjani @DrFadiBejjani

A documentary film based on the project, Blindsight, was released in 2006 and my family and I enjoyed recently at the children’s’ school: Erik Weihenmayer (born September 23, 1968) is the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest, on May 25, 2001. He also did the same for Mount Ararat, and completed the Seven Summits in September 2002. After he became blind, at first, Weihenmayer did not want to use a cane or learn Braille. He wanted to prove that he could continue living as he had. He tried to play ball, but once he understood that he was incapable of doing so, he learned to wrestle. In high school he went all the way to the National Junior Freestyle Wrestling Championship in Iowa. Erik is an acrobatic skydiver, long distance biker, marathon runner, skier, mountaineer, ice climber, and rock climber. He is a friend of Sabriye Tenberken, whom he visited in Tibet to climb with teenagers from the school for the blind (in the movie). Another documentary, Fellowship of the Andes, was produced by Dutch filmmaker Bernd Out
Erik Weihenmayer is the only blind person to climb Mt. Everest and the "Seven Summits." He has also skied from the summit of 18,500-ft Mt. Elbrus, the tallest peak in Europe, 10,000-ft from top to base camp. He recently skied the Haute Route, 80-miles over the high Alps, from Chamonix, France to Zermott, Switzerland.
In the last ten years, the number of totally blind US skiers has decreased on the ski slope. In America, they are practically absent from ski competition. The best blind skiers are coming out of Europe and Australia, far surpassing the U.S in innovation and technique. A variety of reasons account for this downward trend. A large part of the problem lies in the current way totally blind people are guided in recreational skiing and the overly difficult process used to transition them into competition thereafter.When it comes to recreational skiing, 99% of blind people in the US are led from behind by their sighted guide, as compared to Europeans. The argument for this is safety for the guide who feels more comfortable seeing the blind person and the slope below - all without turning his head. With this technique, however, the blind skier has to constantly turn his head back in order to hear the quick and vital commands. By turning shoulders and craning, it promotes bad posture and defensive ski position. Further more, at a high speed, it is difficult for a blind skier to hear a guide's calls from behind him. Obviously this limits progress, over-all confidence, and pleasure..When skiing through crowded resort situations, with a guide in front, the blind person has voice commands to actually follow, along with the helpful sound of the guide's skis. By skiing behind the guide in a consistent trajectory, with a consistent ski turn width/radius, it gives the blind person the capability and security to easily ski through those crowds. Also, with the guide in front calling commands, he and his voice become a crowd clearer, parting the seas for the blind skier, hence MORE SAFETY FOR ALL.
When it comes to race competitions, when you have to do your best performance, almost 100% of blind skiers are guided from the front..
So what does the blind person get out of skiing:1) A sense of independence. Although the instructor is right there the blind skier is ultimately responsible for their own turns and stops; 2) Confidencethat they can accomplish a high adventure physically demanding sport like skiing that many sighted people can’t or don’t do; 3) Knowledge that they have challenged themselves in a non traditional area for visually impaired people, knowledge witch gives them the confidence to challenge other things in lifeThese words, independence, accomplishment, confidence, challenge, are so foreign to the America youth these days. Should they all become blind to see the light? Should they be thrown out of their comfort zone in order to learn how to cherish this comfort and be grateful for it?As we explained above, LEADING FROM BEHIND is treacherous and unhelpful. It only helps for the safety of the leader not the person being led. Does this all sound familiar?
We need leaders like Erik Welhenmayer. If he was able to lead a bunch of blind students up Mount Everest, he certainly did not do it from behind. People of his ilk (there are a few out there), if given half a chance, would undoubtedly be able to lead Americans out of this chaos…
Better the Blind Leading the Blind, then an Impaired-vision Man thought to be King in the Kingdom of the Blindfolded

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