Cyclist turns heads, changes minds


The Leader-Herald

FORT HUNTER – An inspiring cyclist made a local stop on Saturday to meet with people from Liberty, the Montgomery County chapter of ARC.

John Robinson was born without fully formed arms and legs, but this hasn’t stopped him from being ambitious and influencing others to be same.

Robinson, 44, is the founder, president and CEO of Our Ability, a nonprofit organization based in Albany that helps people with disabilities obtain an education and employment. Our Ability uses video production, public speaking, advocacy, job services and mentoring to assist the disabled.

On June 23, Robinson, his family and other members of Our Ability started their “Journey along the Erie Canal,” a 17-day bike trek from Buffalo to Albany and the largest disabilities awareness event in New York state history. The trip was influenced by Robinson’s wife Andrea, who went to the library one day and came back with a book about biking, according to Robinson.

“She told me she wanted to do a bicycle trip with the family. At first I thought she meant a little trip, but then she pulled out this book about trips along the Erie Canal,” he said. “Initially I was hesitant and said, ‘no way,’ but the more I thought about it, the more I was interested.”

Robinson and his Our Ability partner, Doug Hamlin, ride handcycles, which are three-wheeled bikes mobilized by hand-cranking, while others in the group ride other kinds of bicycles. The journey is being documented as a follow-up to his national documentary shown on PBS titled “Get Off Your Knees: The John Robinson Story.”

His goal for the bike trip is to raise enough money to create a scholarship fund for students with disabilities. He also wants to inspire and raise awareness for the impaired.

“I’m specifically hoping to raise funds for people with disabilities and start a scholarship,” he said. “But I’m really hoping to inspire and raise awareness of the ability inside of everyone.”

Robinson’s biking group stopped at the Yankee Hill Historic Site in Fort Hunter to meet with Liberty members over ice cream sandwiches.

“We’ve really been inspired by Liberty,” he said. “So we had to stop here today and meet with all of its members.”

One of the Liberty members, Amanda Hemstreet, made Robinson a sign that read, “Good luck on your journey.” She said she appreciates what Robinson is doing and wanted to encourage him on his trip.

“He’s doing something really cool,” she said. “I made him the sign to make him feel good, and I hope he likes it.”

Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane also stopped by to meet Robinson’s group and all of his supporters. She thanked them for their efforts and expressed how inspired she is by his journey.

“Seeing John make this journey is a true inspiration,” she said. “It makes you realize that you can do anything if you set your mind to it. We really can overcome any obstacle with dedication and hard work. Having the word ‘can’t’ in your vocabulary after meeting John Robinson is impossible.”

Liberty ARC’s Public Relations Assistant Sharon Holbrook-Ryan said she’s really grateful for what Robinson is doing for disability awareness and she appreciates the attitude he has while doing it.

“He focuses on the abilities, not the disabilities, and that’s how everyone should look at it,” she said.

Robinson and his biking group came to Fort Hunter from Canajoharie and continued their journey to Amsterdam after meeting with Liberty members. They are expected to arrive in Albany on Monday.

For more information about John Robinson and Our Ability, see