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13 Questions: Daniel Kish

by Ouch Team

10th July 2008

41 year old blind American Daniel Kish is an echolocation expert, using the medium of sound to detect obstacles, as bats do. Daniel has made a name for himself as a teacher of this method of orientation to blind folk all over the world and is currently holding seminars and workshops in the UK. He and his students have been featured on TV mountain biking, skateboarding and being able to recognise many aspects of their surroundings by clicking their tongues and using the echo that the click produces.

Daniel recommends a white cane to navigate bad pavements and noisy environments, but how will he choose to navigate 13 Questions?

Uppermost in my mind today is ...

Dan Kish
Completing my UK trip in one piece. I have a very busy schedule and every workshop demands varied approaches and attention to differing requirements. No student is the same and every organisation is unique. 75 percent of the people I work with are children, but there are adults as well. Children haven’t learned to be demotivated yet.

People think I'm ...

Politely mad. I don't have much patience or interest in convention any more, unless it is proven to work. When it comes to the blindness thing, I don't buy into any conventions at all. Blind people don’t necessarily need to travel using public assistance. I also question the length of the cane and how it is held and used. We buy into a conventional wisdom which says that blind people need to be taken care of. Look at the massive unemployment rate among this group, yet we can be found in prominent positions in all areas of life. The level of under achievement is not a function of blindness, but a poorness of fitting blind people in to the world we live in.

I want to ban ...

Prejudice. I guess it sounds cliché, but it’s responsible for huge historical world strife. Prejudice breeds ignorance, unrest and lack of communication.

Not a lot of people know that I ...

Have great spirituality. It doesn’t take the form of a particular religion or an approach that is considered conventional, but more how I am called in the moment. I put a good percentage of my energy toward communicating with the universe, making sure we have an understanding. Fasting is a very powerful way of doing this. Once, I fasted for 11 days, drinking only water. I like to go hiking or mountain biking during these times. Rather than feeling weak, I’m strengthened.

The best piece of advice I would pass on is ...

Make a point of regularly challenging what you think you know. Most of it is based on assumptions that have been programmed into us by a society which doesn't necessarily have our best interests at heart. If we challenge what we think we know, there is a chance we can break out of that and begin to touch what is real.

I struggle with ...

... not struggling. It’s easy to get into that frenzy of pulling, pushing, forcing, frantically trying to make things happen. There is a very very deep magic in opening yourself up to letting happen what is in the best interest of the highest good.

I excel at ...

Seeing the big picture of things and understanding how various elements relate to each other. I have a knack of zooming way out and recognising how it all fits together.

My ideal dinner guest is ...

Jesus Christ. Not because I necessarily consider myself Christian, but because I think that he knew a great deal which has been very well hidden from most of us. I’d like to find out what the man was about.

If I didn't live in the UK, I'd live in ...

Brian Bushway using echolocation to navigate his mountain bike.
As an itinerant orientation and mobility officer. One of my favourite things to do is to explore new places. When preparing lessons for students I would go an scope out an area, taking note of it’s various features. It wasn’t hard to get hired. I am well qualified on paper and I can articulate myself well in an interview. They did want to see me in action of course.

To relax I ...

go to the mountains, hiking and camping. Usually on my own. Mobility is about discovery and recovery. Getting lost and unlost. I keep track of where I'm going, making a note of landmarks and clues and I carry a compass. I also try to gather information ahead of time.

Mountain biking as a blind person is

Challenging and delightful. If there is a sighted person in the group, they go in front. We all have noise makers on our wheels so we don’t crash into each other. If you are biking on roads you have to pick and choose the quiet ones. We are developing a device called Soundflash which will be capable of producing an echo signal to cut through noise.

What do people think when they hear you clicking?

It’s all about discrete tongue clicking, used to gather information in a strategic way. The click varies in tone and volume depending on the situation. People don't usually hear me and I’ve rarely had any comments, even as a kid, and kids say things! The most phobic about it are definitely the Australians.

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