Skip to content

Seeing With Sound - Using Flash Sonar Article

How I came to know flash sonar

The first time I heard about FlashSonar, or better known as Echo Location, I didn’t believe that it could be true.
Yeh, a few weirdo blind guys, I thaught.
But I was wrong, because, quite quickly, I found out exactly what it could do!

So what is Flash sonar?

Bats use Flash Sonar, or Echo Location, because of their low vision, to avoid trees, walls, and to spot pray.

They make a clicking/squeeling-sound which form echo’s, bouncing off objects.
The echo returns, and the brain process the information gained from the environment to see what objects there are around, and how to interact with it.

The first record of blind people using this skill, was in the 1700’s.
But Daniel Kish “44” developed this skill from bearth, and is tutoring blind children and adults to use it.

So how do blind people use it?

Blind people use a sharp tung click, ideal to form clear echo’s, which will bounce off objects, and prevent them from walking into walls.

Sadly, most blind people, when losing their eyesight, form their own way of Echo Location, mostly finger-clicking, hands-clapping, or foot-stomping to find information from the environment.
These forms of Sonar aren’t that clear as the sharp tung clicks.

Images are formed in the brain of the shape perceived from the clicks.
Example: Scanning from the left to the right a certain image can be formed as thus:
It is an object, sounds solid, begins low, then goes higher, flattens, and then lowers down again.
According to this shape, we can know that it is a car.

Or, something thin and solid starts from the ground, then goes up and up, then something is still there, but more wider and sparcer.
A tree.

Objects can be perceived, according to the following criteria’s:

1) The texsture: how solid is it. Solid or sparce;
2) how big is it: high or low, thin or wide;
3) how far is it: near or far;

A loud click is used to hear a building fifty meters away for instance.
But, if a wall is a few meters away, one can click very softly, if you want to find the door or something for instance.

What’s the limits?

This skill has empowered so many blind people, that it is no longer necessary for them to be guided by sighted people.
Daniel Kish says that blind people should only be guided in rare cases, for instance a dangerous place to navigate around.

The ideal mobility aid than one can use together with this skill, is the use of a full-length cane, which enables the person to be even more aware of his/her environment.

According to Daniel, the sky is the limit.
And, demonstrating that, he and his team go on hikes, and mountain-biking all over the place etc.

Daniel has learnt to navigate small and difficult bush paths, and, when he was little, explored neighbour’s yards, and rode bicycle in his neighbourhood.

Daniel taught me to use this skill, and already I enjoy walking on my own, and if I had enough money, would have baught myself a bicycle long ago.


Flash Sonar is a skill and topic not well-known to the world, and to most blind people.
Therefore Daniel and his organisation, World Access for the Blind does workshops all over the world.

It is an enriching experience, which opens one’s eyes, literally, and is amazing to see blind children develop new skills to have freedom and independence.

For more information, visit:

Rating Rated 2.7/5 stars by 3 readers.


  1. 1

    I realize that this is a growing area of Orientation and mobility and I believe it has some value. I do think it requires a great deal of concentration and I think it is foolish to believe it is something that can be accomplished without a great deal of practice. I also do not believe this is the only method a person can use to get around without a sighted guide. I walk in busy downtown traffic, I go to unfamiliar settings on a weekly basis and I rarely, in fact I can't remember the last time I used sighted guide. I have a long white cane and it is definitely a tool that I use and use with confidence. Another problem I have with the Sonar technique is that blind people already have so many stereotypes that we deal with on a regular basis and we bring immediate attention to ourselves when we are out in public with our canes or our dog guides. Imagine how the public would react if more of us were in workplaces, malls, restaurants, etc... clicking away with our tongues! I, for one, do not want to be gaucked at or bring any more attention to myself then I already endure!

  2. 2

    Hi Everette.
    Yes you're toatally right. It does take a lot of practising. But one's ears catch on so quickly, that it will surprise you now and again.
    Like today i was walking in our courtyard. We've just move to another house, and i was exploring, without a cane.
    And i heard the washing poal as i approached it. And that's very thin.
    Sure, you can walk independantly without echo location, but if yo want to find out whether there is something in front of you, or you're looking for your friend's car, you don't want to hit it with your cane.
    You could easily hear the car by just clicking your toungue.
    The clicks we use isn't loud at all, only when we're in big open spaces, and i want to hear if there is a building, say, to use it as a landmark, or if i'm lost or disorientated.
    But generally we click very softly.
    Sighted people will 80 percent of the time never hear it anyway.
    You won't go walking into a restaurant and click away madly. The people will think you're mad, or gone crazy.

    I just mainly use it to avoid opsticles.
    Like, wouldn't you rather hear thee's a pillar, and smartly walk around it, or dodge it, than first tapping it with your cane, and find out: ""oh ok, there's the pillar."

    It's almost not looking beyond your nose.
    But it your opinion.
    But try it out.
    If you want i can post an article or email you on how to begin. How to help you start.

  3. 3

    I don't really get the difference of finding it with my cane or clicking with my tongue and hearing that the object is in front of me. I've never understood this need to not tap things with your cane. This is the whole reason why the cane was invented in the first place so you can locate an object in front of you and avoid it. I'm sorry but there are times when my ears fail me or I will misjudge something by only trusting my ears. My cane rarely lets me down and usually when it does is because I was not using it correctly.

  4. 4

    Echolocation is slowly but steadily gaining momentum in the blind community and is being acknowledged by the sighted community. The first book of its kind, The Beginner's Guide to Echolocation was recently published and teaches the blind to "see" using their ears.

    It is generally encouraged that people supplement this method with other methods of O&M like the cane because there is a level of safety that the cane provides. But there is a level of freedom that echolocation provides that the cane will never provide.

    A cane will never provide a 3-D image of your entire surrounding environment like echolocation can. In an instant, with a flick of the tongue, you can gain so much more knowledge and appreciation of your environment than you ever could with a cane. See obstacles above your head, things behind you, buildings in the distance, trees and terrain before you're too close for comfort.

    I know that echolocation can change the world for millions of blind people worldwide, and am committed to do my part to make that happen. Find out more about echolocation and how you can start learning at:

    It's easier than you think, and well worth the trouble to learn, even if you're sighted!

Add your comment below

If you sign in or create an account, you can comment on this article.