Michigan State Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein has proven that justice is truly blind.
Now he has demonstrated that a blind person can also drive a race car.
Bernstein, legally blind since birth, told Fox News Digital this week that Sheriff Chris Swanson, who was in the passenger seat, helped steer him on Tuesday, Aug. 23.
It was the day Bernstein was driving down a dirt road to the Genesee County Fair near Flint, Michigan. It was his first time driving a car.
“People with disabilities know what we can achieve, but the real thing is that those without disabilities give us an opportunity,” Bernstein, 47, said.
His inspiring story raises awareness of what others like him do every day.
“Blind people power everything we do,” Shawn Dobbs, vice president of marketing and public relations at Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc., in New York, told Fox News Digital.
Dobbs said that includes people who “work in manufacturing,” produce products “for the federal government and the aerospace industry, work in one of our base supply centers, or in contracts, provide braille and technology training to program clients as well as serving in management and leadership positions throughout our organization. »
“The Lighthouse was founded in 1918 and is the largest employer of blind people west of the Mississippi and the largest employer of deaf/blind people in the nation,” he also said.
An estimated 6 million Americans have vision loss and 1 million were blind in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
However, the majority of people who are blind or partially sighted do not work or seek work, compared to less than a quarter of people without disabilities, according to the American Community Survey.
“Blind people have the ability to do anything their sighted peers can do; they just do it differently,” said Jeff Mittman, president and CEO of Indiana-based Bosma Enterprises.
Mittman is a disabled veteran who lost his sight in 2005 following an IED attack in Iraq.
His company provides jobs and training for people who are blind, as well as essential training that teaches the skills needed to live independently.
He is also president of the National Association for the Employment of Blind People, where he works at the national level to combat the unemployment rate of 70% for this group.
“I want to make sure that each person has the tools and the skills to do what they want,” Mittman added.
He walked more than 20 miles on the Appalachian Trail with one of his military comrades, who served as a sighted guide.
“It is my duty to strengthen and maximize all opportunities for people with vision loss,” he said. “Our community is better when everyone is able to contribute and participate in society.”
Extend your comfort zone
Bernstein, who is seeking re-election to his job in Michigan in November, told Fox News Digital he is passionate about his job and expanding his comfort zone despite his disability.
He applied his skills by running 25 marathons, competing in an Ironman competition and achieving his dream of being a race car driver.
Although many people know him as a judge, he joked, “Nobody calls me that. [Now] they call me race car driver.
When he trained for marathons, he worked with a team called Achilles International, a nonprofit in New York City that transforms the lives of people with disabilities of all ages, including children and veterans, through sports programs and social connections.
“At Achilles International, we’re removing barriers to success and empowering athletes like Richard to reinvent what’s possible,” said Emily Glasser, President and CEO of Achilles International.
Since its founding in 1983, Achilles has enabled more than 150,000 athletes of all levels to participate in mainstream endurance events by giving them access to adapted equipment, training and racing opportunities and a community. Support.
“We are building a more inclusive society one walk, run or adapted bike ride at a time.”
When Bernstein drove with the sheriff, he was able to follow the sheriff’s instructions on when to turn even though he could not see, in part due to his training during marathons with Achilles International.
“My favorite part is when he came to the window after we were done driving, and he said, ‘Justice, I want your license and registration,'” he said.
“Life is sometimes so intense and so heavy. At some point you just want to have fun,” he added.
His next goal is to dress up in a race car uniform, with a helmet for safety, and go to Michigan’s Secretary of State to get his license – just to see what he’ll be told.
However, his passion is to inspire more blind judges in the field. “You have to look at it from a whole different angle. I am a person of faith and [am] a kind of spirituality and I have a connection with the creator,” he noted.
“You do these endurance competitions and your body is kind of limited when you do these [marathon] competitions, but it is your mind that can disconnect from your body and that allows you to touch the face of God,” he added.
“The body is incredibly mortal but the mind and soul [are] incredibly powerful. »
When he runs, he has guides to help him turn — but when he competed in Ironman, it got harder because he couldn’t hear the guide underwater.
“You keep getting punched in the face when you’re underwater. Other competitors get tangled up, and you start to feel like you’re drowning and that’s when you get spiritual – you are torn and that is when your mind literally disconnects from the body and [you] just have faith to keep pushing.
“It is the essence of life.”
His own perspective on life as someone who can’t see allows him to experience more struggles and difficulties, he said, but “sometimes struggle gives you the ability to empathize with others” as a what judge.
People ask him how he can do his job if he can’t see the evidence.
He told Fox News Digital that really wasn’t the job. Rather, it is his job to ensure that the procedure is followed correctly. That’s his goal; ultimately, the evidence is presented in reports.
Every Wednesday, he receives about 25 cases that affect the lives of real people. “We are the last step,” he added. It deals with serious issues that people face, like life without the possibility of parole – so every case counts.
It cannot braille all cases; it would take too long, and he couldn’t put the cases on the computer either, because that would take him beyond the necessary conversations he needs to have with his colleagues.
Bernstein prepares for these cases by memorizing all 25 cases each week.
“I can’t learn every case word for word – it’s impossible, but I can learn [them to] such a degree [that] all the legal issues are known,” he told Fox News Digital.
“But you don’t have to hear about the case that day. You need to know all the common law cases that support the position — that support your position, and then [you] have to know all the common law cases against your position,” he added.
“What is a prejudice? Pre-judging – pre-judging is done visually. I don’t know what people look like or how they dress,” Bernstein said.
“It’s real lives hanging in the balance – and you reach a certain point where being blind is no longer relevant.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.