Brian Bushway may not have his vision, but he’s a mountain biker through and through. You may also see him on a skateboard from time to time as well.
Born and raised in Southern California, Bushway went blind over the course of three months at the age of 14 due to optic nerve atrophy. For the first six months after he lost his sight, he sat on the couch listening to books on tape, but quickly grew bored of his new hobby. So, he decided to return to the activities he loved with a new approach to navigating the world.
Like bats and dolphins, Bushway uses echolocation to identify objects around him. This means he uses sound, often produced by clicking his tongue, to determine where he is in a room or on a street. As Bushway moves through the world, he hears how sound reflects off objects to pinpoint their shape, size and texture in order to avoid colliding with them.
The skill has taken him far. He graduated from Pepperdine University in 2005 with a Bachelors degree in speech communication and a minor in non-profit management. He also studied abroad in France and England during his college years.
In his professional career, he’s a perceptual navigation instructor for World Access for the Blind, an L.A-based 501(c)(3) non-profit that teaches perceptual navigation and sensory awareness.
And, he’s also one of the first organizers of Team Bat, a group of solo mountain bikers who are blind.
“I start off trying to find the object furthest off in the distance, and then piece the world together with things closer and closer,” he told Great Big Story. “Everything has to leave my brain (in order to focus), and those sounds are painting a picture in my head, a vivid world of acoustic images.”
For more on Bushway, be sure to check out this short documentary from Uproxx.