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Storyteller, technologist, adventurer, inclusivity consultant
- Adventurer / Explorer
- Adventure and Exploration ,
- Education ,
- Innovation ,
- Leadership ,
- Mindset ,
- Motivation and Inspiration ,
- Overcoming Adversity ,
- Peak Performance ,
- Personal Development ,
- Sports ,
- Strategy ,
- Teambuilding ,
- Teamwork ,
Simon Wheatcroft lost his sight at 17 and began a journey of adapting technology to achieve the impossible. Through the aid of a smartphone and the feeling underfoot Simon learnt to run solo outdoors and ran his first ever race 7 months later – a 100 mile road race.
Meet Simon Wheatcroft
Tech pioneer, endurance runner and award-winning educator, Simon Wheatcroft, refuses to let blindness hold him back. Whether he is competing in ultra-marathons, climbing mountains or teaching students in the classroom., he combines the use of technology and his fundamental belief and trust in his own abilities and body to overcome what many would consider insurmountable barriers and achieve his goals. Simon’s unique blend of ferocious drive, along with his background in technology and psychology, enables him to push the boundaries of possibility and challenge the audience to explore what they can achieve.
Leveraging his experience of working with leading technology firms (IBM, MIT and Google), Simon now seeks to create the next generation of inclusive technology that will continue to enable himself and others to achieve what many bystanders would consider unattainable – always working to ensure the provided solutions address true needs and account for future implications. This has included creating such diverse technology as robotic control systems for individuals with motor neurone disease, AI machine learning switching systems and the sonification of data analysis. Simon has also improved the inclusivity and diversity of the hackathon scene by creating hackcessible – a user led accessible hackathon event.
Simon entered the classroom to motivate the next generation of technology pioneers. Within a year Simon’s classroom teaching was identified as outstanding. This led to Simon winning the Pearson National Teaching Gold award for Outstanding New teacher.
Born with a genetic eye disorder (Retinitis Pigmentosa) resulted in Simon becoming blind at 17. After a number of difficult years of adaptation, he headed to California with the intention of climbing a mountain and proposing to his girlfriend. Having never climbed or hiked up a mountain before, Simon’s view was: how hard can it be?
While he managed to propose to his girlfriend (halfway up the mountain) the summit remained elusive as it was too dangerous for him to continue to the top. For the first time in his life Simon quit because he couldn’t see. It wasn’t the difficulty of the mountain; it was his lack of vision that defeated him on the day. Returning to the UK he vowed never to quit again because he was unable to see. Now all he needed was a new challenge. Making use of technology, he began a remarkable journey of learning to run outdoors totally unaided aside from the Smartphone app RunKeeper and his remaining senses as a guide.
Over a period of seven months, he went from running between the goalposts on a football field to his first race of over 100 miles. Partnering with leading technology firms and using social media to find running partners Simon has gone on to run marathons and ultramarathons. In 2014, he decided that the 26.2 mile New York City marathon wasn’t enough, so he decided to start the race in Boston – over 250 miles away! Since then, Simon has continued to test the boundaries of what is humanly possible – becoming the first ever blind person to run solo the 4 Deserts Marathon in Namibia in May 2016.
Simon continued his journey of expanding what is possible by entering the classroom. With a passion for computer science and a drive to have impact in his local community, Simon began teaching at a local school. Initially teaching training providers were unwilling to work with Simon due to his blindness. However, after being welcomed warmly by Outwood Academy Trust, Simon and the Outwood team began the journey of adapting the classroom.
Simon created custom software and working on creating accessible content to deliver to the students. So seamless in fact that many students are not even aware of Simon being blind. This outstanding achievement was recognised by the Pearson National Teaching awards and in his first year of teaching Simon was awarded the gold award for outstanding teaching.
Simon continues to push the boundaries in the classroom and work in challenging schools to help the next generation of tech pioneers. Simon hopes he can inspire students to create incredible technology that can change what individuals are capable of.
Simon’s incredible achievements have garnered significant media attention worldwide. He regularly features on TV – with special features on the CBS News Sunday Morning Live programme and BBC Click – and in the news, including a feature article in the New York Times after becoming the first blind man to run the New York Marathon solo.