In Blind Sight: Wayfinding in the Absence of Vision


Claudia Folska has a dual doctorate (2012) in urban planning and cognitive science from the University of Colorado (Denver College of Architecture and Planning and the CU Boulder Institute of Cognitive Science), and she recently contacted the UCSB Department of Geography to let us know that she is now the Director of the Regional Transportation District of Denver, Colorado. Both her dissertation and her appointment to the Regional Transportation District Board of Directors are particularly impressive because Claudia is blind.

In the dedication of her dissertation, “In Blind Sight: Wayfinding in the Absence of Vision,” Claudia states: “It is my privilege and honor to dedicate this thesis to two phenomenal men, Dr. Samuel M. Genensky and Dr. Reginald G. Golledge. Without their contributions, I know with certainty that I would not have been able to achieve any of my personal or academic objectives. The work in the following pages is a direct consequence of my long-time associations with both Sam and Reg.” She goes on to say, “With nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain, when I began writing this dissertation, I rang Dr. Golledge to ask if he would be willing to sit on my doctoral committee. Enthusiastically, he agreed. I learned then that Dr. Golledge had been blind since 1985. Dr. Golledge encouraged and inspired me to think creatively, to look for and identify questions that had not yet been asked or answered. Through countless conversations, Reg challenged me to take risks and innovate.”

Claudia has done both. Her previous employment includes being the Vice President, New Business Development, at Sensible Systems; the National Director of Marketing at HirePotential, Inc.; and the Global Director of Corporate Communications at Svitla Systems, Inc. Claudia’s RTD campaign web site text exemplifies her fearlessness: “My name is Claudia Folska, I am the mom of a terrific high school student, I recently completed a dual PhD from the University of Colorado, and I am blind. As you can imagine, I do not own a car, and I depend on RTD for transportation to live an independent and productive life. I believe it makes sense to have a voice at RTD that depends on RTD’s bus and light rail services. My experience as an RTD rider has already allowed me to make improvements to safety and services provided by RTD. I promise to bring a fresh and new perspective to the conversation about RTD and public transportation.”

She has. As Reg would have said, “good on ya, mate.” For more about Dr. Folska’s research and studies as they apply to public transportation and the places we live in, see Westword – Claudia Folska doesn’t need to see to have vision  and Wired Magazine – Navigating Blind.

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Claudia Folska: “Dr. Golledge encouraged and inspired me to think creatively, to look for and identify questions that had not yet been asked or answered. Through countless conversations, Reg challenged me to take risks and innovate” (photo credit: Anthony Camera)

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Reginald George Golledge (1937 – 2009) was an Australian-born American Professor of Geography at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He was named Faculty Research Lecturer for 2009. During his career he wrote or edited 16 books and 100 chapters for other books, and he wrote more than 150 academic papers. Golledge was a pioneer in the field of behavioral geography. When behavioral geography divided into a humanistic and an analytical approach by the early 1970s, Golledge became the chief proponent of the latter one. In 1984 he became blind, and moved his focus to the geography of disability. Golledge was one of the developers (the others being psychologists Jack Loomis and Roberta Klatzky) of the UCSB Personal Guidance System (Wikipedia: Reginald Golledge)