The real Batman known as Daniel Kish was born in California and had an aggressive form of cancer called Retinoblastoma which attacks the retinas, by the time he was 13 months old he had both eyes removed to save his life.
Kish uses a term he coined as Flash Sonar, more commonly known to you and I as Echo Location. Yes, the sound waves used by bats, . He does this by clicking his tongue to the roof of his mouth;each click creates reflective sound waves, bouncing off objects enabling him to discern what’s around him.
Kish says he started clicking around the age of 2 and has always used flash sonar to get around, he even refused to use a white cane to navigate as he believed it made him stand out to the public and made him look strange!
Daniel Kish set up World Access for the Blind in 2001, he wanted to counteract the misconceptions that blind people *can’t* do things, he wanted to eliminate the word NO in a blind persons’ vocabulary as he sees it more as a hindrance than a help to them. Since setting up the organisation he has travelled around the world and taught over 500 blind and sighted people alike how to use echo location/flash sonar. Although Kish is not the first person to use echo location, he is the first person to publish academic papers, and teach others how to use it.
Echo location works in 2 ways: our ears are conveniently placed on either side of our head, when there is a noise off to one side, the sound reaches the closest ear about a millisecond before it reaches the other ear. For example, if someone calls your name, it is unlikely you will turn the opposite way from which side they called you.
Secondly, on average, humans have excellent hearing. We hear much better than we see, think about it in this way; we can hear behind us, and around corners. Unless someone has a hearing impairment, a human will never truly be in silence, as you should hear your heart beating or blood pulsing in your ears.
Through his use of flash sonar Kish is able to ride a bike, hike and camp solo. He believes children especially are told “No” too often and aren’t allowed to learn their environment around them because someone always jumps to the rescue before the child “gets hurt”. Through echo location Kish teaches not only blind and partially sighted people who to get around safely, but educates the parent or care-giver how to relinquish control and let the blind child/person make mistakes and learn from them.
Personally I think Kish’s World Access for the Blind is a fantastic organisation, giving people the freedom and confidence to get around. I do find clicking strange, but that’s because we’ve been brought up in a society that discourages any sort of blindisms that brings attention to the blind person. If you haven’t already read my opinions on blindisms you can check it out here. But, to me, clicking isn’t a blindisms that should be eliminated, it is actually an aid to get blind people around efficiently, and in the case of Daniel, very quickly too.
Would I like to learn echo location to use it out and about in daily life? Probably not, but that’s because I’ve been put off looking / acting like the stereotypical blind person. What i will say is: without realising it I have always used a form of echo location, that Ive called my sixth sense, I can feel the air/ density around me, and even when I could see I could walk around my entire house in the dark without bumping into things because I could feel the space around me.
I’m in no way an expert, because since losing my sight Ive frequently walked into things and crashed about, but I blame that mostly down to lack of concentration on my part. I walk much slower now since I have gone blind, so I try to keep up at a decent pace, and this is usually where the blunders happen.
All blind people do have spacial awareness, but I believe, like Kish, it’s a case of whether the blind person uses it to their advantage and hones in on it. Sighted people alike, can also use their hearing to gain a better spacial awareness, but I think they rely far too heavily on their eyes to give them visual feedback.
The next time you go to the toilet in the middle of the night, try walking in the dark. and not touching the walls, you’ll be surprised at how easily you can manoeuvre if you concentrate!
I hope you enjoyed my ramblings, but I do think Daniel Kish’s message is a great one, if you’d like to listen to his Ted Talk speech click here, I found it very interesting!
What are your thoughts on echo location? Would you learn it, if you could? I’d love to hear your opinions 🙂
Much love, Sassy x