How Much Bravery I Witnessed
By Brian Smith
Sarah Doherty isn’t someone who lets barriers get in her way.
Since losing her right leg at the age of 13, she’s gone on to live a professional life, climb mountains, and start her own company, SideStix, focused on research and enhanced walking devices.
But even someone like Sarah found a way to push herself at the 2013 No Barriers Summit, through several clinics.
She started with adaptive yoga. “I’d practiced yoga in my 20s, but I hadn’t returned to that,” she said. “It was really good to be now in my 50s and getting back to something I think is really important — not only maintaining flexibility and strength but just the whole idea of getting centered and breathing.”
Sarah transferred some of that sense of balance and breathing into doing something she’d never done but always wanted to try: SCUBA diving.
“I was pleasantly surprised that I could do it,” she said. “I’ve been on lots of trips in the tropics where I’ve decided not to join my family because I thought it would just be a waste of money and because I probably wouldn’t be able to do it. But now I know I can and would like to take part in the future.”
Sarah also attended the 2011 Summit in Winter Park, CO, and has benefited not only as someone with a disability but also as an innovator and a researcher.
She said she brainstormed with clinic providers on ways to adapt her products to serve other purposes. For example, Amy Purdy, co-founder of Adaptive Action Sports, suggested using SideStix with a specialized tip for skateboarding. Sarah also learned from others how they were able to innovate and adapt within their companies.
“It was a perfect fit,” she said. “It was for end-users and I’m disabled so that’s me. It was for innovators and that included myself and my team. And it was for researchers, and we’d started our project really committed to evidence-based practices.”
Besides getting out of her personal comfort zone, Sarah found growth in witnessing others overcome their own barriers. She said the inspiration was infectious.
“I was quite surprised as to how much bravery I witnessed,” she said. “It inspired people to step into a zone that was not comfortable for them, but with the support of the group, they did that and they discovered they could do more.”
That community aspect of people both with and without disabilities pays larger dividends, mainly allowing more people to not fear disability or place limits on others.
Looking back on her years of attending the Summit, it has “felt like a movement that’s growing, and that’s great.”