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IdeaFestival: Daniel Kish On Teaching Independent Mobility To The Blind

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Daniel Kish has hiked through some challenging terrain, including the Swiss Alps and the canyons of his native California.

Kish, 49, is also an avid camper and cyclist, runs a non-profit organization and keeps a busy speaking schedule.

He’s able to do these all of these things — independently — despite being totally blind.

Kish lost his sight to cancer as an infant, and has devoted his life to helping the visually impaired break down barriers to mobility.

He’s the founder and director of World Access for the Blind, which teaches a sonar technique he developed early in life.

On his work:

“A lot of barriers that blind people face are really psychological ones and social ones. Those are certainly by far more debilitating than physical ones. When work with a student, we don’t just work with a student in a vacuum. We work with the student, we work with the student’s family, we work with the student’s support system, and to the extent possible, we work with the student’s immediate community.”

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On how he navigates in the wilderness:

"The process really involves, quite literally, using sound instead of light to see by. Light bounces off objects and returns to the observer, or enters the observers eyes. Sound bounces off objects and returns to the observer's ears. And if you emit your own sound, such as a tongue click, then you have control over that signal. It's a bit like having your own flashlight in your mouth."

Daniel Kish speaks on Thursday at the Kentucky Center during IdeaFestival. Here's more information.

Rick Howlett was midday host and the host of LPM's weekly talk show, "In Conversation." He was with LPM from 2001-2023 and held many different titles, including Morning Edition host, Assignment Editor and Interim News Director. He died in August 2023. Read a remembrance of Rick here.

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