Brighter Life Experiences for Blind People with the Use of Echolocation

Khryss | Published 2017-09-05 06:41

Few more clicks and you would be able to sketch the entire room without seeing.

Echolocation is basically using one's mouth to make clicks. These clicks then enable them to understand better the surrounding environment. While very common in bats, this technique are very helpful to humans as well.

Actually, blind children sometimes learn echolocation themselves--without any teacher. However, when noticed by well-meaning parents or guardians, they are usually discouraged to use it as they may be seen weird by others.

The world’s most famous human echolocator, Daniel Kish, says this shouldn't be the case as the discouragement is akin to the way deaf people were asked to stop/avoid using sign language. In fact, previous studies showed that human echolocation involves some brain areas that are used for vision in sighted people. Other blind people even get information by just hearing ambient echoes instead of making the noises themselves.

“Most blind children are only taught how to move around while being guided by others, or to follow routes designed by others,” he says. “They don’t get any form of training in freedom of movement, which is establishing your relationship with your environment in your own way. It’s assumed that a blind person could not do that.”

Being blind almost since birth, Kish developed this self-taught technique as a toddler. Gradually, he became so proficient that he can draw a sketch of a room after clicking their way around it, or even go mountain biking along unfamiliar routes! He believes the that sensations he experiences are very similar to having images.

 “It’s not computational. There’s a real palpable experience of the image as a spatial representation – here are walls, here are the corners, here is the presence of objects.”

So he wants more blind people to experience the beauty of the world of echolocation. This led him to set up a charity called World Access for the Blind to teach other non-sighted people to navigate with mouthclicks.

Can you visualize just how amazing and life changing it would be for them to learn this? A better world for blind people--one with much more freedom despite their limitations.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2145969-blind-children-should-be-allowed-to-learn-to-echolocate-like-me/

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2145962-this-is-how-some-blind-people-are-able-to-echolocate-like-bats/

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