John is not a man with free time, but what little time he has is spent doing what he loves: enabling people to achieve their goals and challenging perceptions of what people think is possible. At 42 years old, he works full time as a Technical Lead (or, in his words, a Professional Geek) at LonRes, runs accessible snowboarding sessions for people with disabilities and is currently training for the Royal Parks Half Marathon. When asked why he continues to run his snowboarding sessions on top of all his other projects, John said he wants ‘everyone to experience what I experienced on my first lesson’.
John has been into technology longer than he has been into snowboarding as he learned to code as a child. During a break in his IT career, he decided to travel where he learned how to snowboard and soon the hobby became a passion. He took an instructors course and was soon teaching in the UK. There was, however, a problem. While teaching in Milton Keynes, he noticed that because there were no instructors or resources, not many disabled people were able to take part in the sport.
‘Well that’s totally wrong and I need to change that!’
The adaptive snowboard course for instructors was still a few years off but when it started, John managed to get himself onto the first intake and was immediately shaping the course to suit the needs of the people he was supporting. To him, everyone is an individual and it is his job to be adaptive to their needs.
‘You can’t put an arbitrary limitation on someone. There is a way of doing things and you have to find that way of doing things’.
This really hit home for him when teaching his first class with a deaf snowboarder. While there were communication barriers, he learned that simple things, such as facing a person when you talk to them, were really helpful. Her gratitude to him for being inclusive inspired him to learn British Sign Language. ‘I adapt my teaching style so why can’t I adapt my communication style?’
Stories like these are the peaks of a journey that started in 2002 and through his desire to connect with everyone; John is considered something of a trailblazer in the sport. Not every story is one of success and triumph but when asked why, every week, he keeps going back to run his sessions, the response was simple. ‘Just the people I meet. I have just had some great fun times and you know people are there because they want to be there.’
Through all his work supporting people with complex disabilities or who are deafblind, John’s path has crossed with Sense’s on numerous occasions. This is why earlier this year; he nominated Sense as the LonRes ‘Charity of the Year’. When asked what his motivation for nominating Sense was, John said:
‘A lot of the disability charities have quite a narrow focus but Sense is broader in their outlook. You deal with people who have slipped through the cracks.’
John’s passion filtered through LonRes as the staff team voted for Sense to be their Charity of the Year and he is currently putting together a team to run the Royal Parks Half Marathon with him. LonRes and Sense have a busy year ahead and no doubt there will be lots of learning and laughter along the way, but it is important to remember the humble beginnings of this relationship. An individual finding joy snowboarding for the first time and wanting to share that feeling with everyone.
Want to get involved with Royal Parks Half Marathon? Find out how you can join Team Sense!