“One time, Musket and I were denied access to our local McDonald’s, despite the fact there was a sign that read, ‘No Dogs, Assistance Dogs Welcome,’” said Carlson, who now writes and speaks full-time. “The story made the Channel 51 TV news in San Diego, as well as the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper. I wasn’t interested in bringing legal action against the franchise; all I wanted was a chance to help train their staff and managers about how to respectfully deal with disabled people, and in particular, the visually impaired. They afforded me that opportunity, and my talk was very well received.”
Depending on the audience, Carlson often begins his appearances with this opening line: “My name is Mark Carlson. I have three disabilities. I’m legally blind, hearing impaired, and I’m a guy,” for which he always gets a big laugh, setting the stage for the serious discussion about educating people about the disabled and the considerable hurdles they must deal with each day.
“I may have disabilities, but because of the support and encouragement of friends and family, Musket and Assistive Technology, I have no handicaps,” Carlson said with pride. “I love showing the world what someone with a disability can really do, if there are no limits in their way.”
According to Patrick Lennon, founder of the “No Limits” Mentoring Mission and “No Limits” Award, 70 percent of all visually impaired people between 18 and 69 are unemployed. “This isn’t acceptable. If a person has career aspirations– whether they are paralyzed, wheelchair-bound, or visually impaired– they should be allowed to pursue those goals. Our mission is to do everything possible to connect disabled people with meaningful job opportunities, regardless of their physical issues,” said Lennon.
Carlson is anxious to do whatever he can to assist the “No Limits” Mentoring Mission.
“Whenever there’s an invitation to speak or help mentor somebody going through the same challenges I did, I’m more than happy to do so,” said Carlson, who is currently finishing a book called Flying on Film: A Century of Aviation in the Movies 1912-2012. “Being nominated for the ‘No Limits’ Award is more than an honor; it’s an opportunity to continue my efforts helping the disabled any chance I get.”
By the way, Musket, 12, will be retiring in September to “start a life of leisure as our beloved family pet. I’m sure I’ll be waiting on him mouth and paw for a change,” said Carlson, who resides in San Diego, California, with his wife, Jane. Carlson will be going back to Guide Dogs for the Blind for a new dog so he can continue his career as an aviation writer, historian and public speaker. “I do what I am best at now,” he said. “I love to meet veterans and aviators and tell their stories in national magazines. And along the way, I try to set the best example of a person with a disability.”
According to Lennon, the “No Limits” Mission is looking for companies and mentoring volunteers, such as Carlson, interested in making a huge impact on someone’s life. Lennon added, “The overwhelming majority of disabled people don’t want to be on disability — they want to work!”
If you would like to share your inspiring story, know of someone you’d like to nominate for the “No Limits” Award, or want to read the rest of Carlson’s heart-warming story, go to NoLimitsMission.org or visit them on Facebook.