Brian Rutherford

Brian Rutherford 3Brian Rutherford has a degree in costume design. When he lost his vision after a series of strokes several years ago, he came to the realization that some actors and actresses might be quite uncomfortable working with a designer who had to totally rely on touch to adjust the hem, fix the bodice, or pull in the waist of a costume.
Brian’s not bitter about giving up his livelihood. It’s more like droll wisdom: Some performers just would not want a blind man to touch them for costume adjustments, even for the sake of art.
But Brian has lots of ideas that will keep him in the world of theater, and he believes his training at Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services will help him do that.
The 44-year-old grew up in Pittsburgh and graduated from what was then Point Park College with a theater degree in costume design. After college he spent 11 years working at Walt Disney World in Florida first as a frontline costume host and ending his Disney career as a production assistant with the entertainment team. Family life then took him to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
It was there in 2010 that Brian had four strokes that caused severe optic nerve damage. He has no vision in his left eye and can only see shades of gray with his right eye. “I can see no detail,” he explains. “It’s bizarre, because it’s not uncommon for me to observe minute details, subtle eye shifts. And I can’t do that anymore.”
When Brian left the ICU following the strokes, he still had vision, though everything looked as if under a blue filter. It was six weeks after the strokes when Brian’s vision began to deteriorate, and his doctors could not explain the progression. Finally, three months later a medical specialist had found that his optic nerve continued stroking following the strokes. He was told the nerves may or may not reconnect.
“There are times when I don’t actually see better, but I do see sparkling lights,” Brian explains. “I am told the nerves may be trying to reconnect.”
That would be a wonderful happy ending, but Brian did not wait around for the chance that his vision improves. He started doing some research. “I thought ‘There’s gotta be something in Pittsburgh.’” He adds, “There is magic in the three rivers that will pull you back.” That “magic,” along with a nationally recognized adjustment to blindness training program, brought him back to Pittsburgh for the intense, individualized training offered at Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services.
Brian learned Braille, the correct way to use his white cane, new techniques for eating (“Yeah, finger foods are great,” he jokes.) He says his biggest challenge is using a computer without vision because he used to look at his hands while typing.
“I had to learn how to really type. I’m a visual learner, and using the computer is definitely my biggest challenge,” he says. “But this will be the key to turn because so much of the world is computer based.”
Overall, Brian’s goal is to find employment in Pittsburgh’s arts community. “My biggest challenge now is that all of my employment history is based on my vision, and now I can’t adjust a hemline.” Yet, he’s making calls, reconnecting with former professors and classmates from Point Park, and considering various options and ideas.

Update: While he waits for that big break, Brian has joined the staff in our Industries division as a sewer.