Palo Alto Special Olympics star defies odds thanks to his heart of a champion

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Wednesday, July 13, 2022
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We're highlighting inspirational people in the Bay Area for Disability Pride Month. Here's a look at Palo Alto Special Olympics star Justin Steinberg.

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- July is Disability Pride Month, and we are highlighting inspirational people in our community who have not let anything stop them on their paths.

Palo Alto's Justin Steinberg was told as a child he wouldn't be able to attend school, but he persevered to earn multiple degrees and succeed in the Special Olympics.

Steinberg is legally blind and on the Autism spectrum, things that could be considered disabilities.

But for him, disability is nothing more than a word, a label.

"A label doesn't define you," Steinberg said. "It's how you approach your life and how you go about doing things. Without my disabilities, I wouldn't have done all these cool opportunities."

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He has defied expectations thanks to his heart of a champion, one of many attributes learned while participating in the Special Olympics for nearly 20 years.

"For one thing, I've made a lot of friends there, while improving my strength, self-confidence and hand-eye coordination," Steinberg said. "And I just get to do a bunch of different sports."

Steinberg is a multi-sport athlete in the Special Olympics. Swimming, track and field, floor hockey, flag football and others.

And the games have given back in more ways than one.

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Steinberg's dedication not only allowed him to become a global messenger and athlete of the year for the Special Olympics.

It helped him earn his associate, bachelor's and master's degrees, ultimately leading to his job as a research assistant at Stanford University.

After doctors told Steinberg his IQ wouldn't surpass the average 6-year-old's, his mother Shannon says she can't help but be proud.

"There is never a 'no' factor, a 'I can't do this' factor," Shannon Steinberg said. "He just, he loves life. We are incredibly proud of him. He's an amazing individual."

Justin Steinberg has a similar pride in himself -- as well as in his disabilities.

He says they have opened doors to opportunities that he would've never dreamed of having.

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Steinberg hopes others who are "differently abled" understand that anything is possible.

"I don't give up," Steinberg said. "I show people that I'm more than just a label with a disability. I go out, work hard, especially with my job, offer important perspectives on issues and just because someone tells you that you can't do something, doesn't mean you have to prove them right."

He is defying the odds one shot at a time.

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