As any traveler knows, visiting New York City can make for an exciting challenge. Leaders from the Colorado-based organization No Barriers USA are embracing that challenge—and inviting you to join them—during the 2018 No Barriers Summit, October 5–6. The organization knows a thing or two about challenges: its co-founder Erik Weihenmayer is the first blind person to ever summit Mount Everest and kayak solo along the Colorado River as it thunders through the Grand Canyon.
Over the past decade, No Barriers has always held its summits in mountain or seaside settings. With their 2018 edition, the organization is taking a big leap into the unknown—the urban environment. “We decided to go to the biggest platform in the world and take a massive risk in the organization,” says Weihenmayer. “If we want to have an impact globally, we have to hit the cities.”
Designers of this extraordinary event want participants to model their endeavors on the spirit that drives Weihenmayer and his colleagues. They have created a spectacular array of opportunities for the 1,500 folks who are accepted to join No Barriers—at no cost—aboard the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on October 5. (Note for those inclined: the application and other information about the summit can be found at nobarriersusa.org.) Speakers include actor-musician Ice T, Paralympian cyclist Billy Lister and Whitney Way Thore, star of TLC’s My Big Fat Fabulous Life. Among the physical activities on offer are indoor rock climbing, running, cycling, boxing and yoga. But instruction is available for more cerebral and artistic pursuits as well—think improv comedy, photography, musical performance, textile design and blind sewing. While almost all workshops and seminars are open to everyone who attends, some are only for those who choose one of three special tracks: women, warriors (veterans only) and youth.
The evening of October 5 will see the kickoff of the summit’s second day, a 24-hour No Barriers Questival. The free event, produced in collaboration with outdoor apparel maker Cotopaxi, will welcome 5,000 people to what is essentially a five-borough scavenger hunt. Teams of between two and six people will be given backpacks equipped with snacks, maps and clues, and dispatched to the far corners of the City to complete their assignments and rack up points. The event concludes Saturday evening with No Barriers LIVE, a concert and celebration at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park, featuring Nashville musicians Judah & the Lion.
With a name that evokes the barrier-free world envisioned by the Americans with Disabilities Act, it might seem that the No Barriers Summit is intended mainly for people with disabilities. But according to No Barriers, slightly more than one quarter of attendees at its previous summits have had a disability; others seek the kind of challenge that will change the way they approach the world—and maybe even try to change the world itself. And while about 60 percent of attendees will likely come from the tristate area, the rest arrive from across the country and around the world. (No Barriers has reserved a block of rooms at the Grand Hyatt on East 42nd Street, right next to Grand Central Terminal, for out-of-towners who want to take advantage of the Grand Hyatt/No Barriers discount.)
“They’re not just people with physical disabilities,” says Weihenmayer of No Barriers’ attendees. “They may be dealing with trauma or with poverty. They may be kids who’ve lost parents or come from foster care, or people who had depression or anxiety or addiction. It blew us away how diverse the community was.” So what’s the common denominator? “They are all striving to break through barriers and find the equation to living a purposeful life.” That message is core to the organization: that by challenging yourself to break down your own internal barriers, you will be able to dream larger and accomplish more. That’s the heart of the October summit, says Weihenmayer. “New York City is a big exciting reach for us operationally and logistically. It’s our own No Barriers challenge.”
For more information and to apply, visit nobarriersusa.org.