She was told that extreme sports aren't for blind folks. Now she's proving them wrong.
And now she's helping others do the same thing.
Nancy Stevens is an adventurer. She's biked cross-country, walked the Grand Canyon, and climbed huge mountains.
Nancy also happens to be blind.
"I’m kind of a risk-taker, and I enjoy the challenge of it," she says.
Blind since birth, Nancy has never seen the view from the summit of a mountain she's climbed or the ocean from a kayak she's paddled. But that doesn't mean she hasn't had incredible experiences on each and every one of her adventures.
Nancy having a great time kayaking. Image via Nature Valley.
For Nancy, being out in nature, hearing the trees blowing in the wind, and feeling the kayak paddle cut through the water fills her with the same joy a sighted person might experience.
That feeling translates over to the many endurance sports she's tried.
"It’s fun to try different sports so that when I dream, I have all these experiences, and that’s part of my dreams," Nancy explains.
But she doesn't just try her hand at sports, she pushes herself to the limit.
In 1998, Nancy competed in the Nagano Winter Paralympics in cross-country skiing. She also happens to be the first blind woman to climb the Grand Teton Mountain. When she sets her cap at achieving a new athletic feat, you better believe she's going to make it happen.
Nancy at the summit of the Grand Teton. Image via Nature Valley.
Today, she's using her fearlessness to help other disabled people set out on their own adventures.
She works as an outreach coordinator with Oregon Adaptive Sports, which organizes outdoor recreational activities to people with disabilities in order to help them be more active and independent.
Nancy hugging an Oregon Adaptive Sports member after a race. Image via Nature Valley.
If she can help people who also live with disabilities have unforgettable experiences, they'll likely gain the confidence to try more exciting things.
One memorable example of this mission in action is Nancy's friend Bruce. When she met Bruce two years ago, he had decided he was going to get rid of all his sports equipment because he was going blind and thought he wouldn't be able to use it any longer.
"I was like, 'Oh no no, don’t do that!'" Nancy recalls.
Pretty soon, Bruce was learning to ride a bike under Nancy's tutelage, so he didn't have to give up on his active lifestyle.
"It's an amazing feeling," says Bruce. "I can focus on the sounds and the smells."
Bruce and Nancy after a bike race. Image via Nature Valley.
It's not always easy to adapt, especially if a disability is new, but Nancy isn't the type of person to give up on anyone.
She's experienced discrimination because of her blindness, so she's empathetic to people who might be struggling, but her purpose at Oregon Adaptive Sports is to push them forward. After all, you can't achieve great things without stepping through a little fear.
Like with Bruce, it's about showing people they're capable of so much more than they thought. It's about that feeling of crossing the finish line they never thought they could reach.
And as Nancy puts it, "That’s the kind of stuff you can’t experience from an armchair."
Nancy in a bike race. Image via Nature Valley.
Watch Nancy's whole story here: