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Seeing with Sound - No limits Article

The first time I heard about FlashSonar, or better known as Echo Location, I didn’t believe that it could be possible for humans.
Yeah, 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 prey.
They make a clicking/squeeling-sound which form echo’s, bouncing off objects.
The echo returns, and the brain processes the information gained from the environment to see what objects there are around, and how to interact with them.
The first record of blind people using this skill, was in the 1700’s.

But Daniel Kish “44” developed this skill from a very early age, and is currently tutoring blind children and adults, all over the world, to use it.

So how do blind people use it?
We use a sharp tung click, ideal to form clear echo’s, which will bounce off objects, and allow us to view our environment in a new way.
Sadly, most blind people, when losing their eyesight, form their own way of Echo Location, mostly finger-clicking, hand-clapping, or foot-stomping to find information from the environment.
These forms of Sonar are not as clear as the sharp tung clicks.
We can use these clicks against objects, which return echos back to the echo locator.
Then, the echos change into images, when the brain perceive them.
In other words, we can use the echos to detect a shape of a particular object.

For example: Scanning from left to right an image can form as the following:
It is an object, sounds solid, begins low, then goes higher, flattens, and then lowers down again gradually.
According to this shape, we can know that it is a car.
Or, something thin and solid starts from the ground, then goes up, with something up higher but wider and more sparce.
A tree.

Objects can be perceived, according to the following criteria’:
1) The dencity: Solid or sparce;
2) how big is it: high or low, thin or wide;
3) how far is it: near or far;

We can use loud clicks to hear a building fifty meters away
But, if a wall is a few meters away, you can click very softly, Or for example, in a passage way, listening for an open door.

With this incredible skill, we can walk with more confidence, knowing what is around us, avoiding obsticles, without touching them.
We can navigate parking lots, find the entrance of a building, walk around trees, instead of almost walking into them.
In fact, it even goes further, to bicycling, and hiking.

What are 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 that we 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.
This way, you have a kind of two-layer preview system; your cane, which informs you about curbs, steps, and uneven terrain. And flash sonar, which shows you what is ahead: a building, a car parked at the curb …

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
Daniel has learnt to navigate small and difficult deer trails , and, when he was a child , explored neighbour’s yards, and bicycling in his neighbourhood.
Daniel taught me to use this skill, and already I enjoy walking on my own, and find opportunities to jump on my bike and go for a ride, or go explore the neighborhood.

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:

to see how you could learn to SEE WITH SOUND.

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