Sense without sight: a crash course on blind navigation (talk + workshop), 35C3
Shortlink to this page:
Website for the talk w/ links to e.g. feedback form, talk outline / slides, timing, etc:
Please tag posts: #BlindNavigation @saizai #35c3
Do you want to attend a workshop (whether as participant or observer), or volunteer to help out?
This is the only question on this page. All info is below.
Yes, workshop or volunteer
No, just watching the talk
Hi! I'm Sai.
I'm part-time fully blind. See
for tips on how to interact with me &
for background info.
Handle: saizai (Twitter/IRC/FB/G+/etc.).
Gender neutral pronouns please.
What is this talk/workshop about?
Learn what it's like to see the world without using your eyes — through direct experience.
Ever wonder what it's like to navigate the world while blind?
Want to learn how to use your everyday senses in ways you don't know you don't know?
This is your opportunity to learn.
The talk is very participatory — not just "sit and listen". The workshops are hands-on (blindfolded w/ cane in hand).
After you attend, I'd greatly appreciate your feedback:
If you post about it, I'd appreciate if you use gender neutral pronouns for me, and tag me (saizai) or send me a link.
Talk & participation
A few things I'll cover require a cane, but the vast majority are sensory input that you already have, and you simply don’t realize or pay attention to.
This will also (briefly) cover how and how not to interact with a blind person on the street, cognitive shifts from perceiving the world as a blind person, real vs myth difficulties, etc.
This talk is specifically focused on navigation and sensory experience. It won't cover Braille, computers, general life skills, medical/legal issues, or the like.
Hopefully you'll come away from the talk not just more informed about what walking around actually is like for blind people, but with a noticeable qualitative improvement in how you perceive the world around you. (In this talk, I hack *you*.)
The talk is applied and participatory, not just abstract. I want you to actually experience what I discuss, so that you have a genuine qualitative sense of what it is like to navigate the world while blind.
You will have a better experience if you are totally sober, don't have arms or head covered, & have used the toilet beforehand.
Some things you may be asked to do:
* make a single synchronized clap, to generate a sonic ping of the room
* listen carefully to the timing differences of echos
* stand up / sit down
* feel air currents
* put the back of your hand near the face of the person sitting next to you (& vice versa), feeling for heat changes & air currents
* come up to the stage when asking questions, so that you can get on stage if that would be helpful for me to demonstrate an answer for you directly
Participation in these is strictly optional. It's totally OK if you don't want to (e.g. comfort, disability, not wanting to be on camera, etc), and you don't need to justify it. I'll ask for indications of consent or opt-out. However, participating will very significantly improve your experience and how much you'll learn.
The talk will try to cover as much as can be done without direct experience. However, there's a huge qualitative difference between simply hearing me talk about it and experiencing it for yourself. Therefore, I am also running hands-on, 1-hour workshops (approx. 2 per day, TBD).
Workshop participants will be blindfolded, given a guide cane, and led through a crash course in how to use and perceive the cues that are discussed in the talk, and an additional Q&A / debriefing session afterwards. This starts from simply walking along a straight path, and quickly escalates to hearing corridors, feeling walls at a (short) distance, etc.
Workshop observers are welcome. I also need several volunteers to make this happen, so if you can, please do.
I'd like to run about 80–100 people through the workshop over the course of Congress. To do so, I need help…
I need volunteers:
* on stage (general, e.g. as human obstacle, safety, slides-checker, demonstration partner, etc.)
* on stage (aikido uke)
* during talk, in audience (to walk and/or bike around the aisles to generate wind currents, hold an open cup of coffee / mate for smell, etc)
* workshop assistants (requires training, preferably before 35C3 day 0)
If you can, please volunteer. I'll train you on what needs to be done.
Please also contact me if you:
* are blind / visually impaired and a cane or guide dog user going to 35C3; or
* would like to collaborate on blind navigation aids (e.g. cane-embedded compass).
If you have:
- to give:
* a working Northpaw anklet
* ability to make custom eyeglass frames with zero light leakage
- to borrow:
* long white guide canes
* sections of tactile paving (bumps, grooves, etc used on the street for blind people)
* sections of any random paving, flooring, tiles, carpet, etc
* tatami (aikido floor safety style)
* tactile or audio street crossing indicators
* dry ice & a trough
* laser that can emit as a flat plane
* binaural audio recording equipment
* hands-free 360° video recording equipment (& editing capability)
* … or anything similar
... please contact me:
All workshops are free.
Unfortunately, the equipment to run them is not (it costs several hundred Euros), and I'm poor. If you can donate, it'd be appreciated:
Up to 2 observers may tag along for each participant during a workshop; just don't get in the way or distract anyone. Observers are welcome to participate in group Q&A when there are breaks & during the debrief at the end.
Observers must register separately. If you'd like to be grouped with with friends & family, please use a group code below.
It would be very helpful to have an observer who acts as videographer, so if you can do that, please check the box below.
2. Workshop participants
The workshop is intended to teach a wide breadth of qualitative experience of blind navigation with a guide cane. The intent is to get as close as possible to giving you a realistic impression of what it's actually like for a skilled blind person, focusing primarily on the qualitative/sensory aspects.
This is not intended to teach actual cane navigation skills. We'll simulate you having skills which you don't actually have and can't learn in an hour, by "cheating", hints, and careful setup. This is in a (semi) controlled environment and under expert supervision. Please don't try this in other conditions. ;-)
You will walk into things, generally with your cane. That's often the only way to know where they are. This includes humans, signs, tables, displays, chairs, trash bins, etc. We'll try to make sure you don't hurt yourself (or others), and that you have the skills & information you need at all times.
You will probably get startled or disoriented at some point. This is normal. You'll learn how to how to navigate around all of these obstacles, and either learn or be told to anticipate some of them (to the extent a skilled blind person would be able to do so).
In order to help guide you and demonstrate cane skills, we will need to occasionally touch you on the shoulder, arm, & hand. With one opt-in exception (see below), this will always be done with your consent and awareness.
We'll all be wearing small bells (basically a cat collar attached at the waist or arm), so that everyone can hear each others' location more easily and to signal any "do not film" requests. Of course, this only applies to workshop participants & assistants.
*Optional*: an extremely common experience IRL is that someone randomly walks up and grabs me by the arm in an attempt to be "helpful". Because it's a part of what the real world blind navigation experience is like, I'd like to convey it to you. However, it is very unpleasant & startling, and it's impossible to have your consent in the moment. Therefore, this form asks for your consent to be grabbed without warning. It is not a problem to say no if it's an issue for you.
To participate, you must have attended the talk or observed a workshop, and must be totally sober.
*Generally*, you must be at least 3 feet tall, and have good speech, hearing, stability, and mobility. However, exceptions will be made on a case by case basis, so if this applies to you, please explain in the box below and I'll email you.
Please use the toilet and clean your hands shortly before the workshop. It'll be easier if you wear a sleeveless shirt and no head covering, since the skin & hairs on your arms and head are an important part of sensory cues.
3. On-stage volunteers
I will need 2 on-stage volunteers for the talk.
This will cover much of the workshop content, but adapted for demonstration to the audience, on a stage.
Please be willing to look a bit silly on recording in front of an audience; e.g. you'll need to wear a bell on your waist (so I can hear where you are), and walking straight while blindfolded is harder than you might think. ;-)
Also, please be OK with being grabbed on the arm without warning during the talk (since this is part of an important demonstration).
To let more people participate in the workshops, I need volunteer assistants.
Assistants would arrive before CCC starts, be trained by me like the regular workshop, and also be trained on additional skills for how to monitor and assist someone who's learning to navigate blind.
In return for your assistance, you'll get more in-depth training and Q&A than regular participants (as well as everyone's thanks).
Don't worry, there's a script, and all workshops will be under my direct supervision. I'm asking for assistants, not independent trainers.
In addition to the general participation requirements above, assistants should have good night vision, and excellent communication skills.
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