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Echolocation as a Skill-Based O&M Tool

by Nikhil Vohra

In considering orientation and mobility services for those who are visually impaired or blind, echolocation, or locating objects by reflected sound,  likely does not come to mind—but  that may soon change. A study published last month from England’s Durham University showed that individuals, regardless of the degree of sight they have, can learn to use audible click sounds—produced by the mouth, footsteps, or white cane taps—to determine such information as the size and orientation of objects in their surroundings, as well as to aid in navigation. Study participants learned this incredible skill in the span of ten weeks of training, and four out of five blind participants indicated that they felt more independent as a result. Human echolocation, once thought to be the exclusive realm of such legendary individuals as Daniel Kish, renowned for his use of this technique, may very well enter the mainstream in the near future as a low-tech, low-cost, skill-based navigation tool. Access a summary of the study on the Cool Blind Tech site or the full study in the journal PLOS ONE.