Recognized by Congress for his work on behalf of the visually impaired, Craig Schneider was recently named the “No Limits” Mentoring Mission Award winner for 2013, said Patrick Lennon, founder of the charitable outreach program designed to help disabled people achieve their career objectives through mentoring, training, technology, employer partnerships and special governmental programs.
“Craig embodies the relentless, never-give-up spirit of the ‘No Limits’ Mentoring Mission through his own charitable endeavors, including breathtaking advances in the development of computer adaptive technology systems for the visually impaired and people with all manner of disabilities,” said Lennon, who overcame his own physical challenges to become founding partner and CEO of ROI Media Direct, a preeminent radio and television direct response advertising agency. “We’re also pleased to be presenting him with a $5,000 check for the charity of his choice.”
For Schneider, founder of Charities for the Blind and owner of Access Technology Solutions in Murrieta, California, being named the 2013 “No Limits” Mentoring Award is acknowledgement of his tireless efforts to level the playing field for the visually impaired and anybody with disabilities. “It’s estimated that 70 percent of all visually-impaired people between 18 and 69 are unemployed, and this isn’t acceptable,” he said. “As a blind person myself, I understand the challenges these people face and am doing everything I can to give them the computer tools they need to succeed.”
Schneider, who set the water speed record for a blind person in 2002 driving his 19-foot tunnel hull drag boat at 101 mph, has triumphed in the face of a mountain of physical challenges in his own life. At 29, after achieving success with his own building contracting business, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1983. Unfortunately, it was just the beginning of what would become a series of medical nightmares.
“After surgery, I was treated with radiation therapy, which led to severe stomach pain and intestinal issues,” he said. “For about eight years, I was hospitalized dozens of times for bleeding ulcers and unimaginable pain. The only relief came from the morphine cocktails the doctors prescribed for me for hospital use only.
“In 1991, I underwent surgery to repair the ulcers. Unfortunately, the doctor discovered that I had severe radiation damage to my internal organs that prevented the completion of that surgery. In an effort to remedy some of the hyper acidity conditions that I was experiencing, the doctor performed a selective double vagotomy, a treatment of the stomach. This surgery successfully eliminated the pain, but left me vulnerable to other side effects.”
One of those side effects was blindness. “I woke up one morning with 90 percent of my vision gone. I went to the Jules Stein Eye Clinic and they diagnosed me with optic neuritis. Soon afterwards, I discovered that my home had high levels of radon gas seeping into the living quarters from a cracked slab, caused by the Northridge Earthquake in Southern California earlier that year.”
In 1999, Schneider lost all of his vision, which he compared to being “a baby learning to live all over again.” It was a time of understandably deep depression for the entrepreneur when he discovered what he called his “inner-vision” – to help other blind individuals by developing adaptive computer technology. “Helping others is what saved me from deep depression over my blindness.”
He went on to form a non-profit organization called Charities for the Blind (charitiesfortheblind.org), which offers advanced but easy-to-use computers and software for the visually impaired. In 2004, Craig launched a “for profit” company helping people with disabilities through the Department of Rehabilitation and Wounded Warriors. As a result of his activities, he has helped well over 1,000 children and adults and counting.
“We are trying to make lawmakers, employers and the public more aware of the needs of the blind community who desperately need computer technology assistance, and Laws that assist the disabled in obtaining employment.” says Schneider,” says Schneider, whose innovations help people with all forms of disabilities to achieve new levels of independence, complete their education and start new careers.
Having undergone a successful stem cell transplant in April for Multiple Myeloma, Schneider is making plans to establish a new land speed record for a visually impaired person. “The bottom line is you can’t give up just because you have a so-called disability,” he said. “I try to inspire others with physical challenges never to give up, and let them know that you can’t stop doing what you love just because you’re blind – or have some other sort of disability.”