Andre van Hall is a national speaker, workshop facilitator and adjunct professor who just completed his sixth Ride the Rockies tour, a bike ride that covers more than 400 miles and 32,000 vertical feet. Previously he had a 40-year career managing Hyatt, Radisson, St. Regis and other luxury hotels around the world, and he’s an alumnus of Cornell University. Oh, and he is blind.
Due to a combination of pre-existing conditions, van Hall lost his eyesight completely in the summer of 2011. At the time the was the CEO of Denver Athletic Club, a prestigious athletic and social club, and he was adjusting to a newly empty nest with his wife in a Denver suburb. Life changed abruptly for the couple, who decided to move closer into the city for better access to public transportation and a more pedestrian-friendly lifestyle.
Van Hall says making lifestyle adjustments and accepting help did not come easily to him. His wife’s birthday rolled around mere weeks after losing his sight, yet he says he was determined to bake her a cake.
“What should have taken me 30 minutes to prepare took me nearly two hours,” he says. “It was so frustrating.” Nearly six years, later he’s identified ways to make his life easier, such as applying a sticky dot on the center button on his microwave so he can figure out where the other numbers are located, and applying toothpaste to his finger before his toothbrush to make sure he’s using the correct amount. He also learned to use a cane for mobility and got Pelham, his guide dog.
“By the time Pelham got to me, $70,000 had been invested into him,” van Hall says. “I call him my Lexus.” Van Hall calls Pelham an “unbelievable people attractor” that helps him in both social and professional situations.
“People don’t know how to approach a blind guy, but if I walk in the door for a speaking engagement, he’s my connector,” van Hall says.