San Diego, CA (PRWEB) May 31, 2013
Randyce Wechter, the latest nominee of the “No Limits” Mentoring Mission Award – a charitable outreach program dedicated to helping disabled people to achieve their career goals – embodies the true spirit of somebody who has steadfastly refused to give up.
After being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at eight years old, her mother died suddenly. She found herself learning to walk again at LaRabida Children’s Hospital, without a mom and having to wear a cumbersome brace. To make matters worse, Randyce was warned by doctors that she could no longer play like a normal kid. Of course, she had other ideas.
“So my father moved me down to Florida from Chicago to live with relatives, because of the warmer weather," she said. "He set up pool time at a local Miami Beach hotel because we were told that swimming would be instrumental in getting stronger and active again." The regimen worked. In fact, she ultimately became a standout student athlete in a number of high school sports, including volleyball, a sport she competed in at the prestigious Maccabiah Games in Israel.
At 21, Randyce married and went on to attend DePaul University. After a successful career in retail management, she settled into her passion: the theater. She eventually became a Unit Production Manager for a leading women's documentary film company. She had planned to continue in the same field when the couple moved to California, but fate intervened with the “sunshine of her life” – a new baby boy named Matthew.
She relished being a stay-at-home mom, calling those years the best of her life. She also became actively involved in philanthropic work, helping organize multiple fundraisers for the schools her son attended.
By the time Matthew was in seventh grade, she decided it was time to go back to work. “My husband, Michael, noticed that a local Palm Springs bakery was up for sale. It sounded like a lot of fun, even though I’d never baked a thing in my life. Actually, my husband was the cook in the family,” she laughs. “Luckily, I felt I had enough organizational expertise and support from my family to make this unlikely venture a success.”
Under her enthusiastic leadership and marketing skills, the business flourished. “My husband, though very busy running his own computer business, helped out in any way that he could… and so did my son. It was a blast! You can imagine how popular my son was with a parent known as ‘PS Cookie Mama.’”
At 45, just as life couldn’t get much better, something unimaginable occurred. “I started losing my vision. I was diagnosed with ‘overlapping autoimmune disease,’ which is a fancy way of saying they didn’t know what was causing my optic nerve to begin dying in one eye.”
Her son, a high school senior at the time, took over the day-to-day operations of the bakery as Randyce sought multiple medical opinions. “He did a great job keeping the business going, but as my sight continued to deteriorate over the months ahead, it was obvious I would have to sell my business. It was a difficult decision after pouring so much work and love into my four bakeries, but since I was selling them to a former employee, who I also mentored in the business, it was an easier transition for me.”
The family relocated to Laguna Niguel in Orange County, California, so she could receive regular chemotherapy treatments over a grueling four-year stretch at UCI Medical Center, in a desperate effort to stave off any other serious illnesses. “Unfortunately, I lost my vision completely over a couple of months and the treatments continued in hopes of keeping the diseases from spreading to other vital organs.”
About the same time, Randyce started writing a book called “Blind Spot”, which chronicled her life and journey into blindness, hundreds of doctor’s appointments, countless chemo treatments, wonderful doctors and the amazing support she received from her family. “ I was going to the Braille Institute and trying to do my best to adjust to life as a sightless person , but it was very difficult to grasp that this was really happening to me....I felt I had too much left to do and I wanted to survive the treatments. I felt like I would somehow see again.”
The following is a passage from her unfinished book where she wishfully, almost prophetically, discusses her desires and hopes to one day see again.
“I want to see it all again…
I want to see smiles and milk mustaches…
I want to see my son’s blue eyes…
I want to see my husband’s long beautiful eyelashes and his one cute dimple.
I want to see the smile on my doctor’s face when I tell him I can see again.
And only because they all never gave up hope… I’ll never give up.
I will see it all again…” – Randy
In 2004, Randyce suffered another physical setback in the form of a small stroke. As it turned out, it may have been a stroke of good fortune. To this day, doctors don’t know how or why it happened, but after receiving a myriad of medications in conjunction with her stroke recovery, her vision miraculously began coming back in one eye about two months later.
“It was like a dream, only real!” she remembers. “One day I woke up and saw through the glass doors… I saw the dew on the grass… I started seeing things I hadn’t seen in five years, including my husband and son.”
While she embraced her newfound vision, she never lost sight of the many friends and tremendous support she had received from the blind community. In fact it wasn’t long before she and her husband of 38 years formed a company called AdaptiveVoice that develops, markets and trains people on groundbreaking computer adaptive programs for both the visually impaired and people with other disabilities.
“The idea for AdaptiveVoice was born , a true labor of love, when my husband started writing and developed software programs for me while I was blind, so I could use the computer to stay connected… and I loved it. Friends would drop by and see me (or hear me) using my computer and say, ‘I want a copy, too.’ These dear friends would become our beta testers, and with their invaluable feedback, we started the company with (four applications. Today, we offer a suite of 19 applications for everything from web browsing, emails, document scanning, speech recognition– you name it.”
Randyce says the goal of AdaptiveVoice is to allow people with all types of disabilities to enjoy the same functionality from their computers as anybody else. “We have fully downloadable programs called CDesk applications for people with computers, and we also offer complete software/hardware packages and the training to go with it. There are also wonderful online tutorials on our website.”
According to Randyce, CDesk is an easy-to-use, high-contrast, large-print and fully speech-enabled desktop solution that puts the computer “back at your fingertips.” The company has partnered with The Chicago Lighthouse over the past two years, and is also closely associated with the Braille Institute, the Low Vision Council (SCCO) the Dayle McIntosh Center, the Center for the Partially Sighted (CPS) and veterans groups. CDesk is now in 26 states and over 100 low vision, blind and disabilities resource centers nationwide.
Despite the devastating impact of becoming totally blind and the grueling treatments that would follow, “The experience opened my eyes and my heart to the challenges facing people with low vision and blindness and motivated me to forge a new career path of helping others find freedom through being able to use a computer to its fullest.”
Randyce says that while going blind and suffering a stroke were major blows, she’s grateful they have pointed her on a career path she never could have imagined in the bakery business. “I couldn’t have done any of this without my husband and son, who were like amazingly supportive bookends of love when I needed them most.”
For Randyce, there’s nothing more fulfilling than getting an email or phone call from a visually-impaired or disabled person who now has the freedom to take advantage of all of the tools a computer has to offer.
“We get ‘thank you’ emails all of the time, and they mean so much to us,” she says. “While I didn’t realize it at the time, becoming blind was a gift that enabled me to help others. I will forever be grateful to my family, dearest friends and my doctors for their unwavering support. I’m proud to be nominated for the ‘No Limits’ Mentoring Mission Award, and it would be an honor to help with their tremendous cause in any way I can.”
Besides running her business, Randyce’s second career is actively and happily “giving back” to the communities that supported her every step of the way during difficult times. She is a founding Orange County Chapter member and current Chapter President for the Foundation Fighting Blindness, which has raised over $2 million for research. She also has volunteered at the Braille Institute in Anaheim, California as a Sensory Awareness Teacher, Music Appreciation Teacher, Peer Support Team Counselor and Braille Institute Ambassador.
“I am so very grateful to have been given this amazing opportunity to help and inspire others – and to give them genuine hope that their disabilities needn’t diminish their abilities, dreams and goals.” There is always hope!
For more information on CDesk and other products offered by AdaptiveVoice, go to http://www.AdaptiveVoice.com.