ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Patrick Robinson likened the county where he was born to a third-world country as he spoke to the crowd gathered for Anniston Army Depot's Disability Employment Awareness Month luncheon.

Lowndes County was poor, among the poorest in Alabama, and for Robinson, a child who was born with hearing and vision impairments, it limited his ability to learn.

When he was old enough to go to school, he attended public school with his three brothers. Each year, he was moved to the next grade, even though he couldn't read or write.

"The teachers expected nothing of him," Robinson said of himself as a child.

Then, his parents learned of the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind.

Though it was 100 miles away from home, they took Robinson there and left him in the care of the educators, hoping he would learn.

He thrived.

Robinson learned to read, write, use sign language and began to understand.

"The barriers were crumbling in front of him and his abilities started to develop," said Robinson.

He learned he was an athlete, as he played football and basketball, and a leader when he was elected to student offices.

He not only succeeded in high school, but he went on to college at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.

Eventually, he became the first in his family to earn a master's degree.

"The little boy who had all these limits growing up - brothers who always had to watch him - now, takes care of his brothers," said Robinson.

Robinson is now the executive director for E. H. Gentry, an adult facility at AIDB which prepares students to live independently.

Before Robinson spoke, the depot employees and visitors present were treated to a video showcasing how AIDB teaches its students they are limitless.

"What is truly important is that the students believe in themselves," said Dr. John Mascia, president for AIDB.

Mascia spoke to the crowd about the role models he has learned from throughout his life - those who had disabilities, but lived "ordinary lives that were very extraordinary."