An adventurer and
a motivational speaker
Visual impairment : Blind since birth
“It is better to be blind and have vision, than to be able to see and have none”, says Hein Wagner.
Hein, who has been blind since birth, is no stranger to challenges. At four and a half, he was sent to a blind school and was forced to come to terms with his condition. He went to the Worcester School for the Blind in South Africa, from where he matriculated in 1990. He learnt Braille, got a guide dog and began his career as a switchboard operator. He says he grew up to be an automaton, plugging jacks into a switchboard. His job made him grow bitter and he resigned to his fate, but he never gave up trying to develop his full potential.
It has been said that people born blind grow and mature with an intellect free of the pre-conceptions or judgments of those with sight. Their minds become formidable think-tank platforms from which they develop razor-sharp insights into life’s every day problems and challenges. Hein Wagner is such a man, who has more personal achievements than many!
To start with, he has run several Marathons from 1988 to date. He took part in the western province colours for athletics and also climbed the ten highest mountain peaks in the Western Cape. Hein was a member of the South African blind cricket team that won the world cup in India during the inaugural tournament in 1998. Hein knows no stopping, he learnt to sail and participated to complete the Cape to Rio Yacht Race in 1993.
The energetic young man then decided to learn skydiving. With a radio receiver in his ear, the day came when he leapt out of a plane to land safely on his feet. Besides his love for adventure, Hein keeps himself busy performing his autobiographical show called “Bat Magic” at all national art festivals with great success. In spite of his busy schedule, Hein found time to complete his advanced professional management programme through the U.K.’s Open University.
Possibly his most surprising ambition was to drive his way into the world land-speed record books by setting a record as the fastest blind driver. He drove without any insurance because nobody would risk insuring a blind driver. He notched up 269 km per hour along an airstrip in north-west South Africa. He broke the previous blind speed record of 233 km per hour set by Mike Newmann of Britain.
But Hein isn’t only interested in adventure. He also has a strong entrepreneurial spirit and has for many years assisted first time computer users, both sighted and unsighted, to purchase and install their personal computers. In addition, he has assisted many organisations in procuring and configuring specialised software and equipment to increase employment opportunities for disabled people.
Until recently he worked for an Internet security company as an international ISP sales manager. During his 4 years there, Hein's division continuously exceeded all sales goals.
And if all these achievements were not enough, in 2004, Hein started a company called Visiontree. The company focuses on entertainment, motivational training and recruitment of disabled people. To create public awareness about the problems faced by blind people, Hein was the only blind person to participate in the 39 kilometre long distance cycle race in Cape Town. On February 12, 2006, he rode the race on a solo bicycle. Hein was assisted by the voice of his navigator which directed him through the winding roads and the noisy traffic. A beeping device was attached behind the navigator’s cycle to help him judge speed. Feeling happy and relieved on completing the race in just less than two hours, Hein said, “We finished up a lot quicker than we thought”.
Hein Wagner describes himself as a “blind man with vision” and rightly so. One of his personal goals is to move, touch and inspire as many people as possible. He is able to do so through his inspiring talks.
Hein captivates his audience by sharing his light and dark moments. He is a much sought out speaker, by well known companies like, Alexander Forbes and Vital Health Foods.
Using the principles of listening, thinking and sharing, Hein conducts customised team building sessions. During these sessions Hein combines humour to his powerful presentations leading the audience to interact. His practical and relevant message leaves a long lasting impact.
If you think he already hasn’t achieved enough and inspired millions already, his latest ambition is to break the blind world air speed record in a plane.