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Unlikely Motivational Speaker Wants to Inspire Others

Anyone can get up in front of a crowd and give a speech. But it's another thing to be able to motivate and encourage people. WOSU spoke with an improbable motivational speaker who has an inspiring story.

The world has seen and heard of countless motivational speakers - Zig Ziglar, Wayne Dyer, the late Norman Vincent Peale - most promoting their steps to positive thinking or success by helping oneself.

In Marysville lives the unlikeliest of motivational speakers - unlikely because this motivational speaker cannot talk.

48-year-old Bryan Grubb has Usher's Syndrome - a disease that affects hearing and sight. Grubb was born deaf and his vision has deteriorated so much that he is now legally blind.

He communicates through American Sign Language that an interpreter spells into his hand. Interpreters also narrate for him.

Grubb did not grow up thinking he wanted to be a motivational speaker. He graduated from The Ohio School for the Deaf and later received a degree in computer operations from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in New York. Over the years Grubb worked for Xerox, IBM and later retired from the Internal Revenue Service where he checked tax returns for fraud.

After retiring Grubb moved to Marysville and decided he was not quite ready to stop working altogether. So he asked the Union County Board of Developmental Disabilities to help him find a job. And for the first time in his life Grubb could not get work. Robin Price interprets for Grubb.

"They were trying to help me look for employment. And I was looking for something in an office or computer setting but I continued to get turned down. (Because of your disability?) Well, I guess they just didn't see how someone who couldn't see or hear or talk could be an asset to their company," Grubb said. In the meantime, Grubb was given the opportunity to talk about his life experiences and challenges at a Union County Board of Developmental Disabilities breakfast.

"Now understand I had never in my life given any kind of presentation so I was extremely nervous. I'm kind of a shy person," he said.

Despite Grubb's unease the speech went well, and an audience member suggested he give motivational speaking a try.

"Well, I wanted to do it, and I knew I had not been offered employment anywhere else so I decided to give it a shot," Grubb recalled.

What started out as a speech at a breakfast turned into BRG Motivational Solutions - Grubb's business. He's given speeches for the Ohio Association of County Boards of MR/DD, the Ohio State University, even Honda.

The first year Grubb started giving talks he says he traveled a lot. But like many businesses his, too, has been affected by the poor economy.

Next month Grubb will speak to high school seniors - forgoing his usual $300 fee - at the Ohio Youth Leadership Forum.

"It's for students with different types of handicaps whether they be in a wheelchair or have vision loss. And I'm just really wanting to help them understand that they need to live an independent life and be responsible for themselves and be in charge of their own destiny," he said.

Grubb admitted, though, he has not always had such a positive outlook. He said his deteriorating vision created many barriers for him - to the point where he even isolated himself from others for several months. Luckily he said he met a deaf and blind friend who gave him just the push he needed to get back out and live life.

"That's the time I bought a home and began to live by myself and I've done that very successfully," Grubb said. There's an art to motivational speaking. But does it come through the interpretation? Robin Price, his interpreter said it's nothing she does, she just matches Grubb's personality.

"It is all him. And, you know, he's got that smile. And I just try to match his tone and his affect and he makes it easy. And so that's the only challenge I have, that I want to match him and make sure that I do that appropriately so people get who he is and what he's about," Price said.

And Price relayed what Grubb said he and his business are all about...

"My goal is to teach disabled people that they can knock down those barriers and they can open those doors even when they run into them again and again, just jump over them. And then they can be successful and I would want to encourage disabled people that you can work and you have rights to help you gain employment and I guess I would want to let them know that," he said.

Grubb is the current President of the Ohio Association of the Deaf-Blind.