Monday, May 25, 2015

My name is AC Rush and I'm legally blind; or, shall I say "visuallyimpaired"

 My name is AC Rush and I'm legally blind; or, shall I say "visually impaired" as I often reiterate to some individuals that only hear the word "blind" in conversation.  I describe myself as multifaceted: I write poetry, I'm smart and extremely social, I love to dance and I'm even athletic. I love all sports, specifically basketball and swimming.

I didn't lose my vision the way many others did. I wasn't born visually impaired, I didn't experience a traumatic event that impacted my vision, nor have I suffered from any health issues. The cause of my visual impairment is unknown, but, the baffling event that triggered my vision loss is unforgettable, my life has forever changed.  One day, my family and I went swimming as was our frequent summer activity. This time was different, really different. After I finished swimming, my vision became extremely cloudy for several hours; I couldn't drive myself home. My vision eventually cleared by the end of the day and I continued with my normal life and routine. One day, as I was reading a book, I noticed the vision in my right eye changed. I scheduled an appointment with an ophthalmologist that referred me to a retina specialist. At the age of 27, I was diagnosed with multifocal choriditis, a rare autoimmune disease.  It may seem strange, but, at that time in my life I wasn't concerned about the diagnosis. While my physician stated multifocal chordates would “hijack my vision”, he also stated it mainly affects middle aged Caucasian women; I was neither, therefore, no worries and I choose to only pay attention to the later statement and ignore the “hijack” part! I was young; I was a fighter, I was a healthy athlete, I had tons of friends “miss popular” I was also in denial and didn’t believe this could happen to me. I can’t read or see shapes in my right eye; I can only see light and color. In my left eye I can see approximately 4-5 feet in front of me, everything else is a blur or has a mirage effect.
Unfortunately, researchers don’t know much about multifocal chorditis, but, what I know is that it’s aggressive in me.  In less than three years of diagnosis at the age of 31, I was legally blind. I felt total devastation and my entire life changed and felt over. I had to learn how to deal with my visual impairment and how to live. It seemed like I had to learn how to live life over again.  I was offered white cane training (orientation and mobility), but, initially turned it down. I felt that accepting training was like accepting the disease. I refused to accept this disease – still in denial. One day I fell, tripping over an object on the floor. I realized at that point, if I wanted to remain independent, I HAD to have orientation and mobility. The first day of training I cried like a baby, I wanted to back out because this wasn’t how I envisioned my life to be; not me.
     I’ve come to realize that some of our greatest life’ achievements aren’t planned and often come from our greatest obstacles. When my orientation and mobility trainer from Mobility Solutions Inc. arrived, she calmed my soul. She told me that everything would be alright. She said that vision, or, the lack thereof wouldn’t change who I am as a person, to always be myself and be confident in who I am.
 I’m blessed to have a very strong support system; my family and friends. I'm grateful to have such an amazing group of people on my side. I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason. Life events often seem overwhelming, but, if we rise to the challenge they can bring good and benefit to others in our situation.  I intend to do as such, to bring change and good to the visually impaired community through creating fashionable assistive technology devices for the visually impaired. I plan to start a business, so, be on the lookout for icrush® accessories.
My life’s motto, "Either you let life happen to you, or you MAKE life happen for you! The choice is yours." 
Connect with me on Instagram @ac_rush or on

"Either you let life happen to you, or you make life happen for you!"

Monday, May 18, 2015

Here is a great post that my friend Michael Schwartz recently posted.

Si Se Puede, Part II

The life of a visual storyteller is based on one hard and fast rule: you write to the video you have, not the video you wish you had. Our unscheduled shoot at Guide Dogs of South Australia and the Northern Territories was a reminder that whether you’re the last reporter on the scene and the police are rolling up the crime scene tape or filming an around-the-world documentary about what it’s like to explore the world in the midst of losing your eyesight, the rule is the same.
For this, I couldn’t be happier.
The challenges facing my shooting partner and I could hardly have been more daunting. We had been on the ground in Adelaide for less than an hour. We hadn’t unpacked our gear or even checked that everything was all in one piece. We had just traveled thirty hours,, in a direction so far around the world that it would have only taken another four hours of travel for us to have been heading back around the other half. There was also the small matter of the fact that the people at Guide Dogs SA/NT didn’t know who we were or what we were doing.
To me, that last one was the least of our problems. After all, we didn’t know who they were either… we’d get to each other together. I had been a reporter for almost fifteen years before I moved on to the production world. Showing up where I wasn’t expected and somehow coaxing a story out of the people I found when I got there is the particular bicycle I have never forgotten how to ride. What? You say it’s 2 p.m. on a Friday and that nobody is in the office? We can deal with that. You say there’s an awards ceremony that night and anyone who could possibly help is at home to get ready? We can work around that? You say there aren’t any actual clients who use guide dogs comigcoming in today? Totally not a problem.
What you learn as a reporter is when you need to get the story, there really is no such thing as an obstacle. You wear your most patient but persistent and hopefully endearing smile and you never take it off. You solve problems and get the story because… well, you need to get the story. To me, it didn’t matter that until we passed the signage for this organization, we were totally happy with the story we were telling and the places we had chosen to tell it. This was new information, a new angle and it all of the sudden was impossible to tell the story, the real story, without it. We were getting those interviews and our video… whatever interviews and video we could.
Reporting is sometimes about being persistent in the name the greater good. Sometimes the greater good is a story that will make air so that your producer doesn’t throw things. Sometimes the greater good is getting the news out so that people will know what’s going on. Sometimes, as in this case, it’s being able to go home and say we found every story we could while twelve thousand miles from that home. This is part of the story we found in the middle of Adelaide, Australia on a Friday afternoon in March 2015.
The fact this story, in the midst of the larger story, came together is what keeps me going.  I’ve found the storytelling gods to be a pretty forgiving bunch, and they seem to know when to lend a hand. The executive director might not have been on hand when we were here, but there was a real, live orientation and mobility instructor right down the hall, which turned out to be even better. It didn’t matter that in a perfect world, the interactive center shown in this story would have been filled with school children. That world, today, was a parallel universe. So our logic… had to be… all the more room for us to wander and play without having to get permission slips from dozens of school children. in the absence of their parents. It certainly didn’t matter that there were no guide dogs anywhere nearby at the guide dog center. That was a problem to be solved later. Which, as you can see in the video, it was. Granted, it was the next day, and we came upon our subject by pure chance and while shooting something else entirely. We were ready for random acts of fortune… and I’ve also found when you’re looking for something, you tend to find it. We set out that next day with the idea that we were going to prioritize locations where people wihtotu cars would likely be on hand. Tram stops, sidewalk markets and the like. In other words, we pushed the odds in our favor… and we got a lucky break.
I can’t fully express how good it felt to be wearing my reporter’s hat again. In a small, little accessed room in my mind, I sometimes wonder if it would even fit if I could find it. I did not expect to find it in Adelaide, Australia, but there it was… sewn right into the fabric of my brand new filmmaking hat. Wonder of wonders, it was just as comfortable as I remembered.
To read more go to
Twitter @TrailheadPrdctn

Monday, May 11, 2015

Helen Kellerwas an American author, activist and lecturer. She was the first deaf/blind person to graduate from college.

Helen Keller - (1880 - 1968) - Helen Adams Keller (June 27, 1880 - June 1, 1968) was an American author, activist and lecturer. She was the first deaf/blind person to graduate from college. She was not born blind and deaf; it was not until nineteen months of age that she came down with an illness described by doctors as "an acute congestion of the stomach and the brain", which could have possibly been scarlet fever or meningitis. The illness did not last for a particularly long time, but it left her deaf and blind. Keller went on to become a world-famous speaker and author. Then age 33, and nine years past earning her bachelor’s degree with honors from Radcliffe College, this remarkable woman was on a brief speaking tour in the South. She had studied Greek, Latin, French, philosophy, history and geometry, her academic performance surpassing that of students with all five senses; but, she came here to tell her personal story. Blind and deaf and functionally mute since her second year of life, she, with the help of her teacher Anne Sullivan, had conquered her insulation from the world around her and her separation from the thoughts and ideas of others. Thereafter, she reveled in her ability to share her own thoughts as well.

A standing-room-only crowd of 1,000 gathered at Alumnae Memorial Hall (1907-1965) on the campus of Salem Academy and College. The school, responsible for Keller’s visit to the city, declared Monday, Oct. 6, as “Helen Keller Day.” The senior class of the academy sat in chairs on the stage with Keller. She was accompanied, of course, by Anne Sullivan Macy, then married, who interpreted for her. Sullivan was later heralded as “the miracle worker” in a 1959 play and a 1962 movie by that name.
Keller and Sullivan had been greeted at the train station that day by Winston-Salem luminaries Lindsay and Lucy Patterson, for whom Patterson Avenue was later named. They joined Keller on the stage along with the school’s president, Howard E. Rondthaler, who introduced the celebrated woman. Keller declared, “I can feel the presence of my audience by the density of the atmosphere.” She knew their applause, she said, as vibrations sensed through her feet.
Keller delivered her “world famous lecture, ‘The Heart and the Hand,’” reported the Twin City Daily Sentinel. Sullivan spoke first, sharing the story of her challenges and successes of her undertaking. “For the deaf child, the difficulty of learning to speak is increased a thousand-fold; but the difficulty of teaching a deaf-blind child is immeasurable. … But Helen insisted that she be taught the use of her tongue, saying ‘The good soldier does not own defeat until the battle is over.’” And so, after ample prelude, Helen Keller was led to the center of the stage. “She began talking amid an impressive silence,” the Sentinel reported. “A pin dropped in the farthermost corner of the hall might have been heard, so rapt was the attention of her audience.” Keller shared in part, “We are successful so far as we help each other. My teacher has given me an opportunity to live and work and that is what people with five senses should give each other. We ought to make people happy. Every human has an equal opportunity for education and service and happiness. We are not born as the preamble for the Constitution says, but we do have a chance to help our fellow man.”
Helen Keller was a great thinker and activist. She flirted for a time with socialism as a philosophy she thought better for serving the mass of mankind, but she was more prominently a great defender of the promises of the U.S. Constitution. She championed freedom of expression, equality before the law and due process for all. In that pursuit, she helped found the American Civil Liberties Union. Fulfilling her own credo for helping, Helen Keller spent her life in service to others, raising money for the National Federation for the Blind. In 1964, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon Johnson for her inspiration and encouragement.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, a time to acknowledge that each person has different abilities, that what people can do is more important than what they cannot do. Helen Keller came here a century ago. “The good soldier” would be pleased to know that today the Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind is one of the nation’s leading employers of blind and visually-impaired persons. With heart, Winston-Salem puts hands to work.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Erik Weihenmayer is the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest,

Erik Weihenmayer (born September 23, 1968) is an American athlete, adventurer, author, activist and motivational speaker, and the only blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest, on May 25, 2001. He was honored with a Time Magazine cover story. He also completed the Seven Summits in September 2002, joining 150 mountaineers at the time who had accomplished that feat, but the only climber who was blind. In 2008 he also added Carstenz Pyramid in West Papua New Guinea, the tallest peak in Austral Asia, thus completing the more respected Seventh Summit. Weihenmayer has also made noteworthy climbs up the Nose of El Capitan in Yosemite in 1996, and ascended Losar, a 2700-foot vertical ice face in the Himalayas which he ascended in two days and 3 hours , in 2008. He is the author of Touch the Top of the World: A Blind Man's Journey to Climb Farther Than the Eye Can See, his memoir; and The Adversity AdvantageTurning Everyday Struggles into Everyday Greatness.
As he was going blind from juvenile retinoschesis, Weihenmayer fought against using canes and learning Braille. He wanted to hang on to his life in the sighted world. He eventually turned to wrestling and became a prominent force in high school. He represented Connecticut in the National Junior Freestyle Wrestling Championship in Iowa. At age 16, he started using a guide dog. He tried rock climbing, and found he was a natural at scrambling up a face using his hands and feet to find holds. Then he attended Boston College and graduated with a double major in English and Communications. He became a middle-school teacher Phoenix Country Day School. He also coached wrestling in Phoenix.
Weihenmayer’s first big mountain was McKinley (Denali), in 1995. In 2004, with Sabriye Tenberken and six blind Tibetan teenagers, he climbed on the north side of Everest to 21,500 feet, higher than any group of blind people have ever stood. A documentary based on the project, Blindsight, was released in 2006.
In 2005 Weihenmayer co-founded No Barriers USA (, which helps those with special challenges to live active and purposeful lives. The organization’s motto is “What's Within You Is Stronger Than What's In Your Way!” Injured soldiers are a major focus of No Barriers USA. In 2011, his 3-person team competed on ABC's Expedition Impossible, a race across the deserts and mountains of Morocco, finishing second. He has also completed the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race, at elevations above 10,000 feet, and Primal Quest, an adventure race over 460 miles with 60,000 feet of elevation gains. In September 2014, with fellow blind kayaker, Lonnie Bidwell, Weihenmayer will kayak the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, 277 miles from Lee's Ferry to Pierce Ferry. Today, while still adventuring, he is a prominent worldwide speaker, focusing on the topic of using adversity to advantage and living a "No Barriers Life.”