Stars, Accessibility, Blind Writer, Mentorship, and more Stars at South by Southwest!


When I launched the Flight4Sight campaign, I had one planned destination: South by Southwest (SXSW). I have heard about this conference for a few years. I am a big technology and social media nerd. SXSW combined Interactive, Film, and Music for 10 days from Friday, March 7th – Sunday, March 16th. There were over 5,000 events to choose from. It is the conference where Twitter blew up and Foursquare officially launched.

I planned on buying a badge for the Interactive portion of the conference. The rest of the conference looked like fun, but too expensive. One challenge was how I would travel to the conference every day. I was staying with a friend 30 minutes away. Renting a car was not an option and the bus would take up a lot of time. Then something happened that still boggles my mind. Thanks to someone (who will remain anonymous) who saw a comment I posted on Instagram, I received two platinum badge passes. These badges were worth over 3 thousand dollars. This individual wanted to do something nice to support my journey. I was flabbergasted.

Having two passes meant my friend, Chris Colletti, could join me and drive me around. He took three days off from his job at Apple (don’t ask him what he is working on) to go with me. Also, this meant I could stay for the whole conference!

I arrived in Austin, Texas late Friday night from Rome, Italy via Atlanta, Georgia. Despite two incredible Delta flights, I battled some serious jet lag the first few days. I finished most days with the seat back and my eyes shut as my friend drove us back.

Accessibility at the conference was phenomenal. There was a separate registration booth to deal with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) issues. I learned later that I could have a plus one with me. This is a person who does not need to purchase a pass as long as long as he or she stays with you. This will definitely encourage me to come in the future. The accessibility allowed me to sit front row at talks given by Lady Gaga, Nicolas Cage, and Robert Duvall. x-UtqszsmqSJpPCvaZGkz6AaT60NhwtzzC8gPGqeJjM-1The conference involved many other stars. I also listened to Sean “Diddy” Combs talk about his new tv station “Revolt”, Bill Cosby do standup and Tim Ferriss talk about challenging yourself. Tim Ferriss is the author of Four-Hour Workweek. It offers a thoughtful perspective on how to live your life. It focuses on your work life and whether it is right for you. Finally, the most sureal sighting was Edward Snowden. He was live (via Google Hangout) discussing all things privacy and NSA.

While waiting in the accessibility line to see Bill Cosby’s stand up, I met Will Lowry. He is a blind writer who was at SXSW for the second time. He is a super nice guy. We had the chance to sit down and interview each other. I will be reporting about this in a future blog.

The conf erence was not all about stars. I was primarily there for social media talks. I was reminded of certain principles. One: “Content is NOT king”. Social Media is “social”. At the end of the day, we should be most focused on engaging people. The second principle involved “authenticity”. Nobody can do Social Media better than the subject itself. I sat in on a few sessions about social media and music. If  you are a current or future rock star, your most effective social media strategy is to do it yourself. Fans want to see the real you. Likewise, this can be applied across many sectors, but who doesn’t want to be a rock star?

Another great experience that happened was the mentorship I received. A big challenge at SXSW is the sheer volume of events and choosing which to attend. Also, you need to make sure, for some events, you arrive enough to get in.

One evening, I was unable to attend a certain event. You never want to waste opportunities at a conference where there are so many great events and people to meet. I noted from the SXSW conference schedule there were mentor sessions going on. I sought a mentor. I was super fortunate to talk to Ligaya Tichy. She is an Angel Investor and normally talks to people that are starting companies. I nervously approached her. I talked with her about my campaign and asked her how I could keep it going. She offered great advice. Her best advice was when I stop traveling, to sit down and start sharing what I have done and to seek out new contacts. I was interested in her previous involvement with Airbnb. I inquired with her about how I could get it involved as a partner on my journey. If I keep on my journey, I will need some financial help. I would LOVE to partner with Airbnb. During our discussion, the idea of putting sponsor stickers on my cane came up. My cane could be like a Nascar with sponsors. Stay tuned…

The stars just kept coming. This year, for the first time, Apple brought the iTunes Festival to SXSW. They hosted a series of concerts. I was lucky to win a lottery for free tickets to three of the five concerts they held. Highlights were seeing Pitbull, Lady Gaga, and Keith Urban perform. This was the cleanest concert experience I had ever been to. Everything was so nice. It was full, but didn’t feel crowded. Instead of people in yellow jackets running the event, there were Apple employees coordinating everything and even cheering when we left the final night of the festival. What more can you expect from something run by Apple?

The last night in Austin I went out with my friend and his family for dinner. I was exhausted and debated whether I should even go to Chile. SXSW was overwhelming, I learned so much. I was surprised to realize I was about to spend my tenth night at their place. The conference went by so fast. I happily paid.

THANK YOU South by Southwest for an INCREDIBLE experience!

To see more pictures go to my SXSW Facebook Album.


My brother… @JohnnyWalsh!

249645_874313840947_4593673_nI share the same condition, Usher Syndrome Type 2, with my brother. That said, we are very different. Growing up almost five years apart and having separate interests led us to simply coexist. He was musical and I was a jock. He was never shy around women. They frightened me. He went to Notre Dame for four years and came back home. I went to multiple schools, graduated from the University of Colorado and lived in Colorado for close to 14 years. He followed our father and grandfather’s footsteps to become a lawyer. I became a professional mascot.

Ever since I moved back to Madison, my relationship with Johnny has become stronger. A big reason for this is stand-up comedy, which we both enjoy. In early 2011, Johnny started to work on comedy routines at the Comedy Club on State. He explores his disability as background for his routine. This, combined with his sharp dress and snarky lawyer humor have been a winning combination. He has had great success in the local scene. He also uses Twitter (@JohnnyWalsh) to humor the masses online. One of his tweets was even mentioned on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. I am happy for many reasons to see him do well with Comedy. He has always been a stand-up comedy fan and I am proud that he took the initiative to try it out. I have watched his act many times, and have often taped it for his review. His highlight to date was opening for Bob Saget in front of 2,000 fans.

On this trip, I wanted to dig deeper. I wanted to learn more about my brother and the condition we both share. I submitted some questions to him. These are his answers:

What was the moment like when you learned you had a genetic condition that may lead to blindness?
I remember that day well. The funny thing is, the day after this particular eye appointment I was scheduled to receive a tetanus shot so I was more afraid and worried about the shot than I was about the eye doctor. The other point I often make about that moment is at the time my eyesight had not degenerated all that much.  And, I already knew there was an issue so I was not surprised the doctor was giving it a name.  For instance, I already had difficulty seeing at night while my friends did not.  I was having a hard time locating items I dropped on the floor while others could spot them right away.  I fell off a pier and into the lake.  So like I said, I already knew something was up and had assumed it was something that could be easily remedied.

So the moment the doctor gave it a name – that exact moment – was not a big deal to me. However, as he started to explain what may happen to me, my mother, who was in the room with me, started to cry – that’s the moment I knew I was in trouble. No child ever wants to see his or her mother cry and to this day I still have a hard time thinking about the pain she felt during that moment. I wasn’t scared and frankly, I was a bit naive. But when she started to cry… a few minutes after the diagnoses either my mother or the doctor called my father and he immediately came to the doctor’s office to receive the news. I have no idea what fancy lawyer stuff he was doing that day but obviously he dropped everything and came to my side. So again, that was another sign that maybe the tetanus shot would be the least of my worries.

The other thing I remember about that day – after spending hours at the eye doctor mom took me to the record store on Monroe Street, Strictly Discs, and I bought 3 CDs – Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Eagles, and Soundgarden – after all these years I still remember the 3 CDs I bought – it’s funny the things one remembers.

Lastly, I also remember calling two of my best friends, Evan Goyke and Nic Adamany, and telling themabout the diagnoses.  Again, we were just kids – we really had no idea what we were talking about.  The only difference was we now had a name for it and an explanation as to why I was so bad at night games.

Did you ever attempt to drive?  What was that like?
Yes.  Dumb.  Heck, I was terrible at Mario Cart – that should have been my first clue.

How much can you see today?
“I have a central visual field of approximately 5 degrees in each eye. To put that in perspective, when I attend the movie theatre and sit in the back row – I can see about 5 percent of the screen – though I still pay full price for the ticket.” (answer taken from previous interview)

How does your condition affect dating? Positive and negative.
It’s a negative. Women never describe their Prince Charming as someone with a handicap so as far as first impressions go, I am probably overlooked. Of course, as women get to know me, they realize that the handicap may not be a deal breaker after all.  In fact, my inflated ego usually causes the problems.

In all seriousness though, dating is difficult. It’s hard to ask someone you’ve just met to read off a menu for you or to have them drive everywhere.

What are the advantages of your condition?
Never the designated driver.

What do you know about being a car passenger that other people can learn from?
People are more willing to turn into traffic when cars are speeding toward the passenger side than they are when cars are speeding toward the driver’s side.

What are the things that really are tough that you constantly have issues with?
Eye fatigue.

What are the chances you will go completely blind?
I have no idea.

Are you afraid of this happening?
Terrified.  It’s something I think about every day.

When did you start using a cane daily?

What is it like using a cane everywhere you go?
It is like wearing a winter jacket when it is cold outside – a necessity.

What irritating statements do people say or ask about your use of the cane?
“You’re not blind, why do you use a cane?”  That is probably the most irritating thing a person can ask. It’s like asking someone who is hard of hearing “you’re not deaf, why do you wear hearing aids?”. Another example is asking a person with a broken leg “why the crutches?” It is certainly true that I am not blind – but using the cane notifies others that I am visually impaired. And believe me, when I accidentally cross a street without looking both ways (this happens more often than one would think), the cane notifies the cars to look out.

hY1qYeqiWhat made you give comedy a try?
The Comedy Club on State provides a great venue for folks to get on stage – I took advantage of the opportunity and have a wonderful time doing it. Moreover, I was looking for a creative outlet/hobby to pursue outside of my law practice and stand-up comedy was always an interest of mine. After work, some people play club soccer or hockey, I get on stage and tell jokes.

What is your process for coming up with jokes?
Go to an open mic and try them out.  It is that simple and difficult at the same time. You will never know if something is funny until you stand on a stage under a spotlight and try it out in front of a room full of strangers – you will bomb more often than not. It’s fun!

Where do you jokes come from?
User Syndrome, family, the law, and bachelorhood.

How has comedy helped you deal with your condition?
Comedy has forced me think about and examine the issue more than I would have otherwise.  It has forced me to be more open about some of the obstacles I face or will face in the future. But of course, more importantly, comedy has offered a reprieve from reality.

How has Twitter helped your comedy?
Twitter is a great venue to test out new material – especially one-liners. However, there is no substitute for the stage.

How do you use Facebook vs Twitter for Comedy?
I use Twitter to be creative and if something really hits on Twitter, I may post it on Facebook – though, I do not use Facebook all that much.

What if we were picked to be on the Amazing Race?
I have never seen the show. I think reality television is one of the lowest forms of entertainment out there and I would not feel comfortable allowing a director to determine how I am portrayed before a national audience. That said, if there were a compelling reason to do the show, I would consider it. A compelling reason, for instance, would be if the show offered me a billion dollars and promised that the Packers would win the Super Bowl every year from now on no matter what. Jay Cutler sucks.

Where in the world would you like to go and why?
Las Vegas every weekend forever. And maybe Ireland.

How is travel difficult for you?
When I look at a piece of art or a famous building, I can only see about 5% of it. For that reason, I have never been enamored with sight-seeing.

199_555414792243_732_nFinally, what advice do you have for me as I deal with this condition?
Learn as much as you can now. Develop skills and work as hard as you can now so that if and when the disability really does cause problems, you will have built a strong foundation of life skills that you will be able to use to overcome any future disadvantages.

To see Johnny Walsh in action, click here to see his routines YouTube!

Adventure and Beauty
in New Zealand.

New Zealand was the most popular place people suggested I go. I now know why. It is beautiful.  It is a country of mountains, clean water, wonderful people, and ADVENTURE. I landed in what is known as the “Adventure Capital of the World”, Queenstown, New Zealand. One of my goals is to see and do things that will be a different experience for me in the future. I also want to use social media creatively. There were so many choices of things to do, I left it up to my social network. I compiled a list of ten activities and put it to a vote on Facebook before I went to bed the first night. I expected skydiving and bungee jumping (which was invented in Queenstown) to be the winners. I woke up the next morning and immediately there were three top things I was going to do: Canyon Swing, Paragliding, and Zip Trekking.


The Shotover Canyon Swing received the most votes. I wasn’t horribly crazy about this, but I felt the weight of the social network pushing me forward. After a trek up the mountain and watching others jump, it was my turn. I was all geared up and ready to go. Just a simple jump and swing. However, I took one look down, and it shook me to the core. My guides (the ones who push you over when you’re freaking out) were encouraging me to just go. My hands wouldn’t stop sweating. I measured out my step and suddenly I was headed off a cliff. Once I was down and swinging, the view was fantastic.  The worst part of the whole thing for me was the creaking in the equipment as I was being hoisted up. I trusted the people running it, but I was reminded how often we put our trust in equipment.

We were offered a second jump. Feeling the pressure to do something crazier. I and another person jumped again. This time, I went off on a tricycle. It turned out to be a great picture to use in a caption contest. See the winning captions here. I also have video too!

KbBYbWAOaPY4WUNbAziMXUxB8OfahGEwCyrDvhWFKVQThe second adventure of the day was paragliding with SkyTrek. The idea of flying in the air sounded fun to me. The take off was very casual. We went to the top of a big hill. My instructions were to simply keep running until I no longer could, then sit back and relax. The take off was easy. The “sit back” happened, but the “relax” DID NOT. Paragliding was the single scariest thing I have ever done in my life! I felt very insecure. The wind has so much control and I did not know what was going to happen. I fully expected us to lose control and crash. About five minutes into flight, I wanted off and down. It was 15 minutes of pure terror for me. I trusted my guide… it was the wind I did not trust. You will notice, in the video my teeth are clenched and my hands are bolted to the straps!

CWMJdSJCDSgXotnIwnQUCqa6LlNPo3Jgs0ToN3_kVEsOn my second day it was off to Ziptrek Ecotours! I did a series of six zip lines that took me down a mountain. The guides were great. This adventure also had a conservation focus. The guides talked about the environment around us and how we can maintain it. It was simply fun to just jump into the air and zip to the next location. The fear factor was much lower than the previous day.

My next destination in New Zealand was Auckland.  Once again, I compiled a list of the top activities. I posted them on Facebook for voting. When I woke up, Rainforest Canyoning dominated the vote tally and off I went. Rock and water are two things I love. I grew up on a lake with a rocky shoreline. I always felt I had great feet/eye coordination. After a drive up to Piha Canyon, we suited up and received some training.  Going off the side of a cliff was never easy. Once again, I trusted my guides fully, but with my back horizontal to the ground, it was the equipment working I had to ultimately trust. I could do everything right, the guides could do everything right. You never know, things break.


My favorite part was repelling down a narrow canyon with a waterfall in my face. I slipped and slided but kept getting my balance back. It was fun.

My final New Zealand adventure was the least scary, but nonetheless thrilling. I went on a Whale and Dolphin Safari. I love boats and water. The tide was rough but this played out to my advantage. When the other passengers sought shelter to avoid getting wet, I stayed out on the bow. I felt like I had the boat to myself. I was bouncing around and getting wet. Isn’t that the point when you are on a boat? We saw a lot of dolphins. They are amazing and fast creatures. They kept up with the speed of the boat and jumped around. I had never seen a whale in person before. It took a while but we finally managed to find and observe a couple of whales. Very cool. The Explore Group captain was very knowledgeable about wildlife. It was a wonderful visceral and educational experience.

Thank you for the adventure, New Zealand!

 My time spent there however, was not all play. In Auckland, I also met with New Zealand’s Blind Foundation. Coming soon will be a blog about what I learned from them.


I don’t need my eyes…
I feel every position.

Mike&BI love anything to do with dance and movement. I have been a dancer and student of movement for as long as I can remember. When I googled “blind dancer”, Brilynn Rakes showed up.

Brilynn performed last year on “Dancing with the Stars”. She was born with Nystagmas, which makes her legally blind. When I was in New York City, she was gracious enough to sit down with me and have a chat. I even asked some of Bernard Pivot’s famous questions, a la James Lipton.

MW: Where are you from?

BR: … born and raised in Visalia, California, a small town in central California, but I’ve lived in

San Diego for the past 4 years. And I recently moved here for school. I go to Fordham University. I’m in the dance program at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

MW: Alvin Ailey?

BR: Yeah, it’s on 55th and 9th. It’s a really big dance institution and they formed a program with Fordham University, so I’m getting a degree but also being able to dance intensively everyday and train.

MW: So what is your condition?

BR: I was diagnosed with Nystagmus, which is the “dancing eyes,” which means my eyes shake back and forth uncontrollably. I’m extremely light sensitive so I wear tinted contact lenses to filter out. . .

MW: You have tinted contacts on now?

BR: Yes. They’re like a layer of sunglasses. We send them off to a lab. It’s quite a process, but we order them, the prescription that corrects my eyes to twenty-two hundred, which makes me legally blind. So the corrected vision is twenty-two hundred.

MW: What can you see right now. . . me, what do you see?

BR: I see you. A lot of it is distance. I can’t see details in distance, really, at all.

MW: You said five feet?

BR: Yeah 5-10 feet is clear, and then past that is. . .

MW: After 10 feet what happens? Everything is blurry?

BR: Not everything is blurry, it’s just little details aren’t clear. We’re in Starbucks right now, I see someone sitting, drinking coffee, but I couldn’t tell you if it was a guy or if it was a girl, or what size coffee that person was drinking.

MW: And that happens throughout the day?

BR: Mhm, and I also am colorblind, which is extremely rare. . . for females to be color blind. I am completely color blind.

MW: What do you see in a sunset? You see different shades?

BR: Different shades, I mean, it is pretty, but, apparently sunsets are really gorgeous because of the color and all of that, but I just see different shades. . .

MW: Do you need a cane or. . .

BR: I have one if I ever need it, for crossing streets.

MW: Your eye are always moving? Does that mean you’re looking many different places all the time?

BR:  It means the clarity isn’t there. It’s not like, I’m looking at one thing, and it’s perfectly clear and it’s solid. It just slightly moves, and so it just takes away that clarity. It’s really confusing… hard to explain…

MW: Do you feel your eye moving?

BR: I don’t feel it, but sometimes if I stare at one object, it’ll go back and forth and back and forth, like, it moves.

MW: When did you start dancing and why?

BR: I started dancing when I was really young, maybe, 7 years old. My 3 older sisters had done dance as an extracurricular, so I was not gonna do sports and be outside because I’m extremely light sensitive and I was just not very into sports at all, so my extracurricular was dance. And I really found to love it and every year that I did it, I continued, and I did more classes. Just worked harder, wanted to improve each year… I loved it from the beginning, yeah, it’s something I could do. . .

MW: What are your styles?

BR: I started out with doing all styles: ballet, tap, jazz, modern, lyrical, hip hop. . . but then, when I was 12, I moved into just ballet, and some modern in there. I did that for 4 years, and now in college I do ballet and modern, mainly. . . and pointe also.

MW: So here you do ballet and modern?

BR: Mostly… there’s also extra classes, like right now I’m taking West African dance, which is really fun.

MW: How does your [condition] help you?

 BR: I’ve transformed it into a positive thing. Number one, it sets me apart from everyone else. It gives me a background story, and it’s given me so much more body awareness. I don’t need my eyes, so I don’t check myself out in the mirror. I feel every position, like I feel the muscles working. I can pinpoint a muscle and think do this, I can work my inner thigh more… yeah, so I just send messages all over my body telling them to do certain things and to create the correct position. So I hardly use the mirrors.

MW: Ballet has a big thing with mirrors. I’m not a ballet guy at all, but with studying ballet, a lot of people use the mirror, right?

BR: Everyone depends on the mirror to make sure [they] look a certain way…But honestly, it’s more about what it feels like, and also listening to the music is a big thing, and the big musicality. . . I love musicality, and the nuances in the music, and catching them holding an extra note. . . uh, I love having live musicians, too. At Ailey we have the pleasure of live drums, live piano. . . it’s amazing, it’s great.

MW: How do you work with partners?

BR: It definitely comes through in the partnership. I love partnering because I can just feel that other person’s energy when we work together. And so, again, it’s like a more complex way of dancing together. You feel that person. . .

MW: So you’re dancing with a partner. . . how are you different than the average dancer that they dance with? If they didn’t know you had a condition, and they started dancing with you?  What would be different?

BR: Nothing really. I mean, my danceability is not affected, but I’ve trained for so long that I’ve learned so many different techniques on my own on how to make it just like everyone else, even maybe try to make it better than everyone else who doesn’t have my condition. I try to add the extra little artistry on top of that, so most people that see me dance, they don’t know I have a visual problem. Even with partnering, there’s not worry… they don’t take any extra caution. . .

MW: You said add extra artistry to it, so does your condition help you do that, or. . .

BR: I think it does, yeah. It just makes. . .

MW: Because you’re able to, you feel things better.

BR: Yeah. It’s all about internal. . . working internally, and that comes out of the body.

MW: Who are the dancers or teachers that you look up to?

BR: Alicia Alanso. . . she’s kind of an inspiration to me, because she’s also legally blind. She’s from Cuba, she used to be a big star with American ballet theater years ago. She’s amazing, she’s that hope that you can still be a professional. I look up to any dancer that has made it in the professional field because it’s such a hard career. So if you made it into a company, and you’re doing it as a career and you love what you’re doing. . . I want to be that.

MW: You want to be a professional dancer?

BR: Yeah, I do. I really do. I would love to get a contract with an amazing company and tour around those big, packed theaters across the world, like, that would just be. . .

MW: And ballet, is that your first choice?

BR: I love contemporary ballet. I love the ballet technique, but also movement on top of that. I’m really open to anything.

MW: Dancing with the Stars, were you sitting by the phone one day, what happened there? How did that start?

BR: One of my teachers is kind of connected. . . not my current teacher, but one of my past teachers. I just got a call, and I’m, I think it was that connection with agencies in Los Angeles, and things that um. . . someone sent my story in to the producers of Dancing with Stars, and I wasn’t even really aware of the picture or anything. And they just called me, and presented the idea of me dancing on the show, and I jumped on it.

MW: Yeah, who’d you dance with?

BR: I danced with Derek Hough. He’s won the past two seasons of the show. He’s becoming a big dance star right now. He won an Emmy for his choreography on the show. Yeah, he’s an amazing dancer and partner and person in general. I was honored to dance with him.

MW: What was it like dancing with him?

BR: It was amazing, he was such a good partner, and was so supportive, and was like, how are you doing this? And I was like, I’m just dancing. It was just amazing. He was an amazing dancer. So versatile, he can do so many different styles.

MW: I always was dancing growing up… I felt so good dancing, and I was always trying to get people to dance. Like at weddings, I’m always like, get out, just move… there are people that are apprehensive about dance. What’s your strategy for getting [them] to dance… what do you tell them.

BR: It’s just so much fun and it’s just, like, a release of almost stress, energy. It’s a form of exercise, too, which, releases endorphins. It just makes you happy, especially when it’s a good song. I enjoy it so much that I want other people to feel that same happiness as when I’m doing it… If you’re really feeling like you’re having fun, it comes through. This is told by us all the time. . . if you’re worried about what you look like, then you look worse. If you’re not worried about what you look like, you look better. You look like you’re enjoying yourself.

MW: What can you say particularly to people who have vision issues that want to dance, that are apprehensive about it.

BR: I would say don’t be afraid of anything, because fear is just your worst enemy. It will hold you back from so many things. It will hold you back from being really happy, and you could really love to dance, but you’re too afraid of the one person who is different. And so, throughout my life, I’ve learned that you wanna be that one person who’s different. You want to stand out, and share who you are. And if you have a visual impairment, it’s part of you, and you have to accept it and hold it and cherish it, because it’s. . . it was given to you for a reason. And so. . . not just dancing in general, um, if you’re visually impaired and you want to do anything, go for it, uh, despite how scared you are, or how worried you are. . . you know what I’m saying? Like, just go for it, ‘cause life is very short. And you will regret it when you don’t.

MW: What was the most amazing thing about “Dancing with the Stars”?

BR: The moments on stage and also all the feedback. . . my phone was just going off, lighting up with followers, with messages from people watching the show and who heard my story and just, the effect that my story had on so many people. I guess, that are just like contacting me and follow me on social media. . . that was exciting knowing that I made a difference in their life. . . it’s like the biggest thing. Of course the light and the makeup, the whole experience was amazing, but just the aftermath of it, just what happens in my life after that experience. Different dance magazines contacted me, doing big articles about me. Going to the blind center of Nevada and doing a whole gala being a guest. It’s just amazing, being able to share and actually affect the world in a way. Awesome.

MW: Have other people with vision issues contacted you?

BR: Messages from parents and kids who are saying you have given me hope that I can do things I want to do, I can go out there and fight for my dreams, despite all of these things that are holding me back.

MW: What surprised you the most about “Dancing with the Stars”.

BR: The celebrities on the show are just the most normal people. The behind the scenes was kind of crazy too, like, it’s hectic backstage, and, it’s crammed, and before the show it’s like this countdown, and it’s live television too. So these people are performing a piece, and, if they mess up, that’s what’s going on television. I can’t just press pause and say, okay, well, we gotta start over. So millions of people are watching you live. And so that was kind of shocking. I knew that it was live, it’s a different thing when you’re in it. It’s a lot… Luckily I didn’t fall. Goodness.

Bernard Pivot’s 10 Famous Questions

MW: What is your favorite word?

BR: Passion.

MW: What is your least favorite word?

BR: Weakness.

MW: What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?

BR: People who love what they do or are excited to wake up in the morning and follow their passion.

MW: What turns you off?

BR: People who complain about insignificant things in life.

MW: What is your favorite curse word?

BR: Uh, oh wow, um. . .

MW: Uh, you don’t have to answer that.

BR: Yeah, no, I don’t know. That’s a funny question though.

MW: What sound or noise do you love?

BR: An exhale.

MW: What sound or noise do you hate?

BR: Chitter chatter, when people are whispering to each other. I don’t like that, it’s annoying. It’s like, say what you have to say. Don’t just whisper, you know what I mean?

MW: What profession other than your own would you like to do. . . if you couldn’t study dance. . .

BR: Oh, public speaking. Inspirational public speaking… I want to do, like, after school or after my dance career I want to write a book and do that. It would just be amazing.

MW: That’s awesome.

BR: Dream job.

MW: What profession would you not like to do?

BR:  Waitressing or book work in an office, I wouldn’t really want to do anything other than what I’m doing.

MW: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

BR: Brilynn, congratulations, you’ve lived an amazing, fulfilled life, and you’ve done everything that I’ve planned for you to do.

This concludes the first interview of my #Flight4Sight.

A BIG THANK YOU to Brilynn! I am now a fan!

The world will not wait
for me to see it.


In 1997, I was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome Type 2. I have a moderate to severe hearing loss combined with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). My hearing has been stable my entire life and with the help of hearing aids I am able to hear pretty well.

My vision is a different story. It is slowly starting to go. In 2011, my night vision became so bad that driving at night was no longer safe. In 2012, my loss of peripheral vision stopped me from being able to drive at all. This past year, I began to use a cane. Today, I bump into things all day and everyday. Crossing streets is a challenge. Darkness is darker for me, and all forms of light are extra bright.

My vision is going. The world will not wait for me.

On Saturday, February 1st, I am leaving Madison, Wisconsin to travel the world for 40 days and 40 nights. I am putting the choice of where I go into your hands. During my journey I will be blogging about vision issues. I will use social media to engage with others about the challenges, opportunities, and research.

My final destination will be Austin, Texas where I will attend South by Southwest. A conference involving Social Media where I hope to share my experience.

To decide where I am going, please visit my Facebook Page and comment where I should go. The journey begins Saturday!