Meet Michael: Visually Impaired Athlete and Our Fitness Challenge Intern!

Michael Kinoshita is a visually impaired runner who was inspired by Society for the Blind volunteer Richard Hunter. Now Michael is helping to inspire others with vision challenges to become more active through his role as Society for the Blind’s National Fitness Challenge Intern.

Society for the Blind is one of 13 groups across the nation – and one of only three in California – that are competing in the United States Association of Blind Athletes’ and Anthem Blue Cross Foundation’s fifth annual National Fitness Challenge. Society for the Blind and its competitors will provide more than 300 blind and visually impaired youth and adults with an opportunity to increase their physical fitness levels and live healthier, more active lives.

In efforts to increase participants’ levels and step counts, Michael is coordinating with personal trainers, judo instructors and more.

“So far, my favorite part of the internship has been meeting and talking with the many people who are making these National Fitness Challenge events successful, and also watching all of my hard work come to fruition,” Michael said.

Michael was diagnosed with acromatopsia, a hereditary form of rod cone dystrophy, when he was just six months old. Because the cone cells in his eyes did not form properly, he has photosensitivity, a maximum of 20/200 visual acuity, lack of peripheral vision and depth perception, and nystagmus, which he describes as an eye wobble.

“As I get more tired or the light gets bright, my eyes wobble and things get more blurry,” Michael said. “Fortunately, my vision will not continue to decline, with the exception of the usual vision loss that comes with aging.”

A senior at William Jessup University in Rocklin, Michael is studying psychology on a Cross Country and Track & Field scholarship. His major requires an internship, so his mother, a Society for the Blind board member, suggested he consider helping with the National Fitness Challenge. He says his internship at Society for the Blind has helped him realize his potential as part of a workforce.

“This internship has challenged me to get out of my shell and has helped me develop better people skills and planning skills,” Michael said. “It’s improved my self-confidence and time management. It’s been an excellent experience, and I would recommend more people get involved with Society for the Blind through volunteering, interning or as a career choice.”

Michael plans to work as a psychological consultant or analyst for a law enforcement agency or branch of the military after first pursuing his dream of a master’s degree and possible doctorate in psychology.