Bill and Mary Beth Barkeley

24 08 2010

I had the pleasure of meeting and photographing Bill Barkeley and his wife Mary Beth in Milwaukee during the Hearing Loss Association of America’s annual convention in June. Bill was the keynote speaker for the event. I was photographing him for a cover feature article for a 2011 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design and produce bimonthly for the Hearing Loss Association of America.

In addition to his career as a motivational speaker, Bill works for Steelcase, Inc., with leadership positions in sales and marketing in Seattle, San Francisco and Grand Rapids, MI. He is currently Director of Marketing for the Steelcase Premium Group.

Bill is one of 15,000 people in the U.S. and 100,000 in the world with Usher’s Syndrome (Type 2) the leading cause of deaf-blindness in the world. His hearing loss is 85% bilateral, progressive, severe sensorineural hearing loss. He has worn hearing aids since he was five years old and discovered he was going blind at age 28. He is now legally blind. The symptoms of Usher’s Syndrome are hearing impairment and retinitis pigmentosa, which causes vision to worsen over time. This incurable condition is genetic and inherited or passed from parents to the children.

In 2007, Bill became the first deaf blind person to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa (19,400 feet). Initially, he contacted Swiss-based Phonak, manufacturer of technologically advanced hearing systems. He was referred to Phonak’s Hear the World Foundation, which outfitted him with hearing instruments. Bill then contacted Mountain Vision Expeditions, a trekking and climbing company, to set up the Mount Kilimanjaro trip in an effort to raise funds for Hear the World. The climb was featured in the July 2008 edition of Outside Magazine, as well as Josh Levine’s film documentary, Walk Your Own Path—Bill Barkeley’s Climb of Mount Kilimanjaro. Click here to hear the 2009 interview, Life Without Limits, with Barkeley on the WGVU Morning Show. Barkeley was featured on ABC News in 2007 in an interview here.

Bill recently returned from a trip to the Peruvian Amazon for Hear the World, a global initiative by Phonak and Global Explorers, a not-for-profit educational travel organization. The expedition integrated students of mixed hearing abilities (both hearing and hard-of-hearing) to raise awareness about hearing. Click here to meet the young explorers who joined Bill on this life-changing adventure.

Check out the videos made during the expedition (from the Hear the World Facebook page):

Sounds of the Jungle
The expedition team describes the unique sounds of the jungle on their first day in the Amazon.

Hearing Technology in the Amazon
Many of our students with hearing loss have never heard underwater sounds before. By utilizing an underwater microphone linked to an MP3 recorder connected to a Phonak MyLink unit that wirelessly transmitted the sound to anyone wearing a cochlear implant or hearing aid, students like Zoe, had the chance to hear a number of new water sounds she never knew existed!

Turning the Sound Off
Students without hearing loss wore high-powered ear plugs during a hearing loss simulation exercise to give them a taste of what their friends with hearing loss experience every day. This video details the students reactions to the exercise.

Photo by Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.