“No Limits” Mentoring Mission nominates Peter Dawson, who overcame shattering career disappointment to soar in new field helping others.

Peter Dawson

Peter hasn’t let blindness limit his love for sports. He remains an avid skier and tandem bicyclist.

According to Dawson, completing that program turned his life, and his attitude, around.  “As a high school athlete, I wasn’t the best student… but all of that changed in college.  I fell in love with learning, and I now had skills to operate more independently.  I moved into an apartment with my one of my brothers, began dating and my grades shot up – something brand new for me.  I loved history, but had no clue how a degree in history was going to help me make a living.”

Dawson decided to take a couple of law classes, which he excelled at, and after getting his undergraduate degree, was accepted to the University of Washington School of Law.  He went on to intern for the Washington State Office of the Attorney General where he was offered a job once he completed law school.  However, he wanted to prove to himself that he could get a job with a prestigious private law firm despite being blind, and eventually, he landed a job with the second biggest firm in the state – though it was no easy task.

“They were very reluctant to bring me in,” Dawson said.  “I went through round after round of interviews.  I’m sure they were wondering just how I’d perform in the courtroom, or if there were potential liability issues by hiring me.  The process just dragged on, and finally, I told them, ‘Look, bring me in, and if you decide it was a mistake, I’ll just leave… no worries.’”

It wasn’t a mistake, and Dawson proved to himself and the partners that he could do his job at a very high level.  However, he found the work less than satisfying.  “Truth is, I hated it!  There was limited adaptive computer technology for the blind in those days, so I worked an insane number of hours.”

In 1990, he started his own law practice.  Again, while he excelled in the law, most of the cases were the accident, whiplash-related variety.  “And, I felt I was wasting a lot of time doing something I really didn’t love,” he said.

What Dawson loved was helping and mentoring visually impaired individuals in any way he could.  “I volunteered for various Washington State Commission for the Blind committees acting as an advocate for the blind.  And finally, it hit me… what I really loved doing was social work.  So, I went back to school and earned a master’s degree in Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling from San Diego State University, and by my late-thirties, was ready to make a significant career course correction.”

Committed to giving back, Dawson became a vocational rehabilitation counselor with the California Department of Rehabilitation in San Diego.  He served the blind and those with other disabilities in his role as a counselor and then a supervisor.  His passion for helping others, along with his organizational, political and legal acumen, helped him move quickly up the ranks in San Diego.  In his current position as district administrator for the Blind Field Services Division in San Diego, he oversees over 60 counselors, and nine supervisors in 14 different districts that serve around 7,000 blind or visually impaired people throughout the state.

“My job is what it’s always been, only on a much larger scale,” Dawson said. “To help the disabled have a chance to lead fully independent lives – and have the same opportunities to reach their dreams as any other American.”

According to Dawson, there is still widespread discrimination and stereotyping of the disabled in today’s society.  “Sadly, the biggest public misconception concerning disabled people is that they are not as capable or they are going to be sick and miss more days of work.  Both assumptions are just plain wrong.  The fact is disabled employees actually miss less work, are more loyal and work harder than their so-called ‘normal’ counterparts.  Part of my job is to educate employers to the fact that disabled people, when properly trained and given a chance, make awesome hires.”

Dawson’s wife, Dawn, also works in the social arena as a Diversity Civil Rights Officer for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and they have an 8-year-old daughter named Olivia.  And, he hasn’t let being blind get in the way of his love for the outdoors.  “I still go skiing and love taking rugged 30 to 40-mile tandem bike rides.  Most importantly, I’m making my life count for something by doing what I love – helping others.”

7 thoughts on ““No Limits” Mentoring Mission nominates Peter Dawson, who overcame shattering career disappointment to soar in new field helping others.

  1. I was with Pete, Bryan and Kelly that day. Really amazing to see what he’s accomplished so far. We love and miss you. So proud to call you a friend. 🙂 Mis

  2. Pete, I’ll never forget visiting you in the hospital days after the accident…seems like yesterday. What an inspirational journey you’ve been on!

  3. Peter, you are one of my heroes! I will never forget the night of the accident and the ferry ride with your mother to Bremerton hospital. What you have done with your life is joyous and I admire you enormously. God continues to make you a huge blessing to a host of others – myself included!

  4. “No Limits Award” definitely causes me imagine a tiny bit further. I cherished each and every single part of this post.

  5. This man, Peter Dawson is an amazing human being.

    I met him just weeks before his accident in a track and field championship competition.
    He and I competed in the long jump event representing to different high schools.
    He was in first place and I was in second with just one more jump to go.
    And before I took my last jump Peter walked over to me and said he thought I could jump further if I could only make a couple of adjustments in my technique as he shared his thoughts.
    I was already in second place and figured I had nothing to lose so I took his advice and ended up jumping further to actually win the competition.
    Peter and I weren’t friends at the time and it was the first time we met. But
    he helped me do better even though I was his opponent just like he’s helped and inspired many people over the last four decades and today.

    After the accident when he was back on his feet and I’d visit him when I was in town, he lived alone. And from witnessing that , I for life ,was inspired.
    I’ve been blessed and have accomplished alot in my life so far and I truly give some of the credit to Mr Dawson because I knew if he could continue to live and confront his daily challenges and pursue his dreams and accomplish his goals , then I had no excuse. He could have given up. It was an option. But he didn’t.
    I know his journey has never ever been easy but nevertheless, he never complained to me about his situation .He simply integrated it into his life.and was always positive and eager to know how I was doing.

    I could go on and on about this very special man with whom I’ll always cherish our friendship until I die.

    LaMott

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