Blind man follows passion to figure skate

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Lacing up ice skates is a favorite activity to do around West Michigan, and there's one man who doesn't let his disability get in the way of his ability to skate.

Brad Schuler is a frequent skater at Griff's Icehouse in Grand Rapids. Schuler has retinaitis stigmatosa, which is a progressive degeneration of the retina. When he was 10-years-old, he went night blind, and eventually lost all of his sight in his 20s.

"It didn't happen overnight," Schuler explains, "I was constantly adjusting to it and constantly adjusting to my special relationships and just trying to use to learn my other senses, hearing primarily, but it was tough especially at that age."

When facility manager, Terry Marshall, saw Schuler at Griff's Icehouse for the first time in the summer of 2015, he thought someone dropped him off at the wrong building. But when Schuler told him that he was a figure skater, Marshall didn't hesitate to help him get familiar with the rink.

Eventually Schuler was able to get himself out on the rink all by himself. Marshall says he sees Schuler out on the rink doing his routine three to five times a week.

Regular skaters at the rink are happy to see Schuler out on the ice, and intrigued by his story. "It's quite an inspiration to all of us," Marshall said.

Figure skating isn't Schuler's only passion, he also takes yoga classes, takes ballet classes, and plays instruments like the guitar, piano, and flute.

"I try to stay as active and busy as I can," Schuler said. "Most of my instructors are very tactile. So if they are trying to explain or emphasize a point, they will adjust my posture, my position and help me with correct form or whatever I'm trying to convey."

Marshall says he'll see Schuler out on the ice with a group of people, and later end up doing other activities outside the rink.

"When I'm here with regulars, it's just like home," Schuler said. "In the beginning it was kind of rough and they had to get to know me and everything I do. They watch out for me and I just feel great here."

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