BYU Today

Not Your Usual Sight

Determined and focused, a blind student shows others the way.

Adam E. Rushforth

Adam E. Rushforth | Photo by Bradley Slade

At first glance the woodshop looks fairly typical—saws, drills, and scraps of wood. But look again, and you’ll quickly realize that it’s not your usual sight. Guiding wood precariously through radial arm saws and routers, carpenters in this shop work blindfolded—just to make sure everything’s completely dark.

Students at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, affectionately dubbed “the Center,” busy themselves creating shelves and spice racks, an exercise in confidence for those in a visually impaired world. But when his turn came in the shop, Adam E. Rushforth, ’04, had bigger plans in mind. Always up for a challenge, the 24-year-old blind student from BYU confidently journeyed into the sawdust-covered domain of miter bits and table saws.

The result? A handsome, cherry wood grandfather clock—a monument to Rushforth’s vast determination.

Having competed in gymnastics, performed in school plays, and run track, Rushforth hasn’t let blindness get in his way. “My parents helped me in realizing that my blindness really isn’t an excuse,” he says. “Just because you’re blind doesn’t mean you can’t do something.”

Born with coloboma, a condition affecting the iris, Rushforth’s vision has gradually become veiled in darkness. He also suffers from glaucoma and detached retinas, making him now completely blind in his right eye and nearly so in his left.

Seemingly possessing an extra dose of motivation for what he lacks in vision, Rushforth has relied on internal focus and foresight to help him routinely set and accomplish his life goals. He earned his Eagle Scout Award at age 14, graduated as high school valedictorian, and saved for and served a Spanish-speaking mission in Charlotte, N.C.

After enrolling at BYU in 2002 and being accepted to the business-finance program—since sixth grade he has dreamed of being a financial planner—Rushforth quickly realized the difficulties involved with being visually impaired in a visually oriented major; working with the necessary computer programs seemed daunting.

Not to be deterred, he enrolled for five-and-a-half months at the Center, enhancing his Braille skills and learning an invaluable screen-reading program, Job Access With Speech (JAWS), which enables him to use computer programs such as Access, PowerPoint, and Excel.

Now back at BYU Rushforth continues to take on new challenges. Amid volunteering as treasurer for the National Federation of the Blind’s Student Division, giving motivational speeches to various church and civic groups, and maintaining his 3.97 GPA, he works part-time at the University Accessibility Center (UAC) teaching JAWS to other visually impaired students.

Says John M. Call, ’76, his supervisor at the UAC, “He has helped many of these students to have the courage to learn new skills and to have greater confidence in their ability to be successful.”

After graduating in August, Rushforth would like to work in financial planning and then pursue an MBA. Whatever the future holds, he says he’ll be sure to make the most of it. “I try to do my best in whatever I do. I feel like if I don’t give it my best I’m cheating somebody—either myself or God.”

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