Program Staff

Daniel Kish

Kish 130

  • + Dept: Mobility
  • + Town: Long Beach, CA
  • + Years: 7

Daniel Kish is the lead founder and President of World Access for the Blind. This 501(c)(3) non-profit organization uniquely combines a self directed, no limits approach with expertise in perceptual development, positive psychology, person-centered instruction, and public education to develop and mobilize innovative, high impact strategies to facilitate self directed achievement by challenging all forms of blindness throughout the world. Daniel holds Master's degrees in both Developmental Psychology and Special Education, emphasizing perceptual development, family dynamics, and children at risk. He also holds two national certifications in Orientation and Mobility, COMS and NOMC. Daniel is the first totally blind individual to obtain both certifications. He has maintained employment in this capacity since 1996 as an itinerant instructor for many school districts, rehabilitation agencies, and private persons throughout the world. He believes in a strong interdisciplinary education model, making a point to work in close collaboration with all professionals and other supports in relation to each student. Consequently, Daniel has collaborated extensively with very renowned therapists and specialists in the areas of neural science, communication, biomechanics, and perception. Given his unique combination of training, background, and associations, Daniel refers to himself as a Perceptual Mobility Specialist, emphasizing in his instructional practice the perceptual foundations underlieing navigation and environmental interaction. Daniel has worked with over 500 blind students of all ages and backgrounds, and from many cultures. He has particular experience with deaf-blindness, autism, and perceptual processing disorders.

in addition to his work as a Perceptual Mobility Specialist, Daniel has coordinated and supervised all types of educational and enrichment programs including assistive technology, Braille and large print instruction, student/family coaching, peer tutoring, public awareness, and a mentor program. Daniel has stayed and worked extensively with dozens of families in many countries to help them break down the barriers to realizing their children's potential to achieve a quality of life comparable to their peers. He has presented and conducted hundreds of invited presentations and workshops internationally on all topics related to human perception and blindness, including professional development trainings for top scientists, Teachers, and medical practitioners. Of particular note are his seminars on the development of the perceptual and imaging systems in the brain, how this development is disrupted by dependency conditioning, such as sighted guide and lack of early cane training, how this disruption stunts short and long term psychological and physical development, and how this disruption can be put back on track by reestablishing natural processes of self directed discovery. Among many presentations world wide, Daniel has presented an invited paper on this topic to the 2005 European conference of the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI). He has helped to establish relief projects to foster freedom of community participation of blind people in developing countries. Among other things, this has involved developing and implementing a multiphase model for training individuals, blind and sighted, to provide Perceptual Mobility instruction to other blind people, and to mobilize public awareness campaigns to shed a more positive light on the real issues faced by blind individuals.

Though Daniel's main expertise lies in developing all aspects of human perception in sighted as well as blind people, he is perhaps best known for his expertise in echolocation. In this area he has conducted pilot research, and has completed one of the most comprehensive literature reviews detailing the nature and utility of echolocation in blind humans. From this research, in-depth collaborations with noted scientists and perception experts, and over ten thousand hours experience with students of all types and cultures, Daniel created the first systematic, comprehensive echolocation curriculum for advanced training. So advanced are the results of this training that Daniel has coined the term "FlashSonar" to underscore the advantages to his specific approach to the advanced instruction and use of active echolocation in contrast to traditional approaches to echolocation, which he believes to be rudimentary by comparison. Daniel and some of his students have applied FlashSonar combined with other techniques to riding bicycles independently at moderate speeds through unfamiliar environments, and to participate effectively and independently in other complex activities such as skating, ball play, and solo wilderness travel. Through World Access for the Blind and its partners, Daniel is engaged in global efforts to share the advantages of perception based instruction and FlashSonar in the professional training and personal development of all blind people.

In this connection, Daniel co-authored a section on audition training in a textbook called "Early Focus" edited by Prof. Fazzi and Dr. Pogrund. Daniel has also authored several articles for various periodicals, including New Scientist, Insight Magazine (U.K.), and Future Reflections. He is also one of a dozen Mobility Specialists selected to serve on the Subject Matter Expert Committee for revision and updating of national Certification for Orientation and Mobility Specialists.

In addition to prolific, international newspaper and magazine coverage, including Los Angeles Times, Der Spiegel Science Magazine, Utne Visionaries, Men's Journal, and Discover Magazine, Daniel and his students and associates have demonstrated the functionality and educational relevance of FlashSonar on dozens of major national TV programs including Ripley's "Believe It or Not", National Geographic, The Doctors, ABC's 20/20, Discovery channel documentaries, and Guinness World Records TV, a long with airings internationally including the U.K., Armenia, Japan, Australia, throughout Europe, and from Canada to South America. Daniel's work through World Access for the Blind has also been reviewed in other noted popular and technical books, Including "a Sense of the World" by Jason Roberts, "Spaces Speak, Are You Listening? Experiencing Aural Architecture" by Former MIT Professor Barry Blesser, "Understanding the Nature of Sensory Integration with Diverse Populations" edited by Smith-Roley, Blanche and Schaaf, and "See What I'm Saying", by Prof. Lawrence Rosenblum. This is not to overlook features on radio programs including several BBC radio programs, the Australian Broadcast Company, and Npr's All Things Considered.

With support and guidance of Dr. Leslie Kay, Daniel has helped to pioneer efforts to combine sonic with ultrasonic sonar technologies and strategies to form a powerful and versatile approach to nonvisual spatial perception and self directed movement. This work has been covered in various publications including "Business Week," and "Popular Science," and was featured on NBC Nightly News, a 30 minute European documentary, and a 30 minute Fox Television documentary. Most recently, this work in integrating FlashSonar with Ultrasonic sonar has earned a display in the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

Directly inspired by Prof. Steve Mann of Toronto University and Dr. Doug Baldwin of the Institute for Innovative Blind Navigation, Daniel believes that artificial vision systems are on the immediate horizon. Daniel is working with several noted blindness organizations to lay the ground work for global cooperation among top scientists, perception experts, blind consumer groups, and funders toward the development of a focused consortium to design and apply person centered technologies and strategies aimed at greatly enhancing the brain's ability to perceive and function in the world at large, and to infuse these developments with a sound understanding of human perception and blindness, which he feels has been historically lacking. This step is realized in part by Daniel's participation in organizing the first World Congress on Blind WayFinding in the fall of 2005. Through World Access for the Blind, Daniel and his associates are involved with several universities in helping to coordinate investigations into how the brain's perceptual imaging system works, how the brain is activated to process echo information to construct images, and how humans conduct auditory scene analysis. Some of these universities include University of California Davis, University of Maryland Baltimore, University of Western Ontario, University of Southern Denmark, Munich University, and Saginaw valley University Michigan.

Daniel and his associates have designed the first portable device to enhance Flash Sonar for day to day use. Its development was generously supported by Alcon Labs Inc,. NEC Foundation, and Maestro Productions.

Through continuous public awareness efforts, Daniel and his students passionately demonstrate that blindness in itself need not be as limiting as has been historically assumed. They believe and demonstrate that one's quality of life and freedom to achieve comes of one's own choosing and self direction, not to be chosen or directed by others. Daniel asserts that the liberation of blind people depends upon the awareness that blindness bears no intrinsic shame or deficiency. Rather, the deficiency lies primarily in the quality of interaction between the world and the blind. Daniel is deeply dedicated to helping unlock the ability of blind people to challenge these limiting forces with personal assurance and strength, and to stand at last on their own merits in camaraderie and equality with sighted people.

Daniel is grateful to his parents for his liberating up bringing and life experiences, and for the invaluable opportunity to exchange knowledge, perspectives, and insights with Thousands of professionals and consumers all over the world. Having realized that all people struggle with some form of blindness, whether physical or mental, Daniel and his associates have recently expanded their efforts to apply knowledge of perceptual development to challenge all forms of blindness by helping people learn to perceive and understand their world and themselves better, and to apply their understanding to find freedom in self directed achievement.


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