“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” Dan Kish, Founder and President of World Access for the Blind.
“If you guys can see with your eyes, we can see with our ears.” – Juan Ruiz.
We are not really lost. I am reading the map tucked into the top of my Ortlieb handlebar bag – my Oakley prescription sunglasses flipped on to the top of my head. Jay, reading the map over my shoulder combined with focusing his attention on the Garmin GPS unit mounted to the bike has donned his reading glasses. We are quite the pair.
Neither of us have vision problems nearly as serious or bad as they could be. I think often of people like our good friend and colleague Dan Kish, the founder of World Access for the Blind (WAB) and some of his students now colleagues, Brian Bushway and Juan Ruiz. I think of the incredible feats they do with no usable vision. Well, in the sense of vision as defined by the eye. They have adapted their other senses to provide vision without the eye: Seeing without eyesight. I remember the early days of WAB and the Blind Adventure Travel team (Team BAT) – when we took a group of vision impaired folks out into the back country by bike or on foot. They were and still are amazing in what they can see without sight. Often, more than often, they see more than I.
I have not adapted my other senses to compensate for my slowly changing vision. Although, I must admit, I do try to channel Dan when I am fumbling around in the dark, often in a tent, having desperately to go pee. Sometimes I’ll even close my eyes when they are tired or when my “correction” is not working, my eyes don’t seem to want to work. Then, I will use my other senses the best I can. Close up work can be very frustrating when I am wearing my contacts which correct for distance. Take for example, untying a knot or untangling a mess of string – sometimes I will close my eyes and use my sense of touch to break the knot free. And if that doesn’t work, a knife probably will.
My husband and I are 5000 km into our bike tour when I fumble to find the best option for my vision considering the days events. My preference is contacts (which correct for distance) with my cheap-o sunglasses I bought somewhere in the middle of the Czech Republic after I realized I lost my expensive ones on the single track. I have a bad habit of flipping sunglasses up on my helmet – and on this cloudy day, I couldn’t see the trail clearly with the sunglasses on so opted to go naked (ie. without sunglasses)- only to emerge from the southern Czech forest sunglass less.
Some days contacts are not the best option – dry dusty roads such as those we rode in Bulgaria aggravated the hell out of my contact laden eyes. The fierce winds and icy rain we experienced in Tasmania was not ideal for wearing contacts – although glasses were difficult as well. Allergies also occasionaly made wearing contacts not so fun. So, I always kept my prescription glasses at hand – and my contact case and solution – should I need to change the eye wear.
Truth is, I had more eye wear options than I did underwear on our one year bike tour around the world: I had a years worth of contacts (12 pairs), one pair of –in-the-tent, in the house or walking around on rainy day prescription glasses (correcting for distance), one pair of Oakley prescription sports glasses with dark transitioning lenses – this allowed me to ride in shade or sun and not have to change eye wear – but they are annoying to wear as everyday glasses. And, one pair of cheap-0 sports sunglasses with a set of dark lenses and a set of clear lenses to wear when I rode in my contacts.
For the entire year, I had two pair of underwear.
For more info on World Access for the Blind – check out their website:
Dan’s recent Ted Talk is linked here.