By Lauren Pastrana

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — On this South Florida Survivor, one man proves you don’t need eyesight to appreciate the beauty of life.

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A diagnosis 16 years ago changed David New’s life forever. But through music and art, he’s helping people realize their disabilities don’t have to hold them back!

“We were highlighting the abilities of people with disabilities,” New says of the South Beach Jazz Festival, an event he created to feature artists, including those who are blind.

David is also blind, but he wasn’t born that way. He lost his sight as an adult in the middle of a health scare in which he also nearly lost his life.

“When I turned 30, I had an end-stage diagnosis of AIDS and subsequently I developed spinal meningitis and I became paralyzed from the waist down. I lost my hearing and then my eye sight,” he told CBS4’s Lauren Pastrana. “The doctors told me that I was terminal and my parents took me home to die.”

David credits his parents with helping nurse him back to health.

He regained mobility after two years and eventually his hearing came back, too. But his sight never returned.

“When I was diagnosed as totally blind, my doctor handed me a pamphlet ‘What to do when you’re blind’,” David said. “I couldn’t read the pamphlet. So first of all, it was not accessible. And then it was a very limited list of information.”

With that experience, a seed was planted.

David decided to devote his life to ensuring people with disabilities have access to the resources and services they need.

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“Part of what I do is to get the message out to people that we’re not so different. We all have challenges,” he said.

He uses events like the South Beach Jazz Festival to spread that message, while raising funds to help people navigating those challenges each day.

David is very active in local government, helping elected leaders understand how to better serve everyone in the community.

He says he was part of the team responsible for bringing audible crosswalk signals to Miami Beach.

He credits technology, like the Aira glasses he wore during our interview, with helping him navigate new and different situations.

Today, David lives independently, cooks for himself and loves art.

“I love to be creative,” he said. “Just because I’m blind doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the visual aesthetic. It’s very important to me. I hope that others appreciate the things I do as well.”

Even if you aren’t an art aficionado, you can appreciate what David considers his key to survival.

“An inner strength that I possess and all of us have it. It’s for us to find it within ourselves to push forward to use it to the best of our abilities,” he said. “Some people tell me that if this had happened to them, they would never had survived. But the honest truth is you don’t know what you’re capable of until you’re faced with the challenges.”

David says he’s much healthier now than he was 16 years ago and that being blind has actually made him more focused than ever before.

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Learn more about David’s organizations, Power Access, Inc. and Access Now.

Lauren Pastrana