A man who climbed Africa's tallest mountain delivered a down-to-earth message in St. John's Wednesday about overcoming disabilities.

Spencer West lost his legs when he was five years old because of a rare genetic disease.

He has done a lot of climbing over the years but rejected the idea of going to Africa — at first.

"I was like, look, you're crazy. Remember, standing on my hands, I'm two foot seven inches tall. I'm pretty sure that's a snack to half the animals in Kenya, and I don't want to be meals on wheels, thank you."

But two years ago he did it, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro on his hands.

His incredible trip was covered by media around the world, and raised more than $500,000 for clean water in Africa.


Spencer West spoke at a meeting of the Canadian Association for Supported Employment in St. John's on Wednesday. (CBC)

And although he has reached the highest point on the African continent, he has a grounded message about why he's stopped using disabled parking spots.

"My entire life, I've been trying to get people to see me as a regular person," he said at a meeting of the Canadian Association for Supported Employment in St. John's on Wednesday.

"And for me in particular, by parking in a handicapped spot, I was perpetuating that notion that I was disabled."

He stressed that such parking spots are important for those who need them, but he doesn't.

Mountain-climbing message relevant

The meeting was about helping people with disabilities find work.

Sean Wiltshire, of Avalon Employment, says West's mountain-climbing message was relevant.

"I've worked with so many people over my 20-year career that individuals, other people, said they weren't going to make it, or they weren't capable," Wiltshire said.

"So if they believe in themselves and they have somebody else to support them, it is possible."

Wiltshire helped organize the conference — scheduled to wrap up Thursday — that has drawn people from across the country.