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Lecture: Sense without sight: a crash course on #BlindNavigation

Learn to see the world without your eyes. Wonder what it's like to navigate while blind? Want to learn to use your everyday senses in ways you don't know you don't know? In this talk, I hack you with permanently enhanced sensory perceptions.

This is very participatory, not just "sit and listen", and workshops are even more hands-on (blindfolded w/ cane in hand).

Workshop & volunteer signup:
Tag plz: #BlindNavigation @saizai #35c3


This talk is not the same on video as in person. Come in person if you can.

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.

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.


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.

Workshop & volunteer signup

Help wanted!


I need volunteers:

  1. on stage (general, e.g. as human obstacle, safety, slides-checker, demonstration partner, etc.)

  2. on stage (aikido uke)

  3. 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)

  4. 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 you can part with

    • 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 a few hundred Euros), and I'm poor. If you can donate, it'd be appreciated:

About me

I do lots of things, e.g. conlanging (26C3), cognitive psychology (27C3), meditation (26C3 & 27C3), civil rights litigation, government transparency, meta-politics, meta-law research, etc. See my wesite.

I'm part-time fully blind. See for tips on how to interact with me & for background info. In particular, please understand that blindness is not "what I do", and I'm going to hit my capacity for talking about it with the talk, Q&A, and workshops. I always welcome feedback, collaborations, fellow-travelers, and press. Other than that, if you see me around Congress, let's please talk about something other than my blindness.

Contact info:

  • Handle: saizai (Twitter/IRC/FB/G+/etc.)

  • Email:

  • DECT: 4724

  • Signal/WhatsApp/Telegram +15103944724

Gender neutral pronouns please.

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