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World Access for the Blind trains blind and visually impaired persons the technique of human echolocation and calls its training Flashsonar (quite like the navigation of bats). The technique allows people to navigate using tongue-clicking and by responding to the reflected sound from their surroundings. The tongue click allows the ear and brain to work together to construct a 3-D image from reflected echoes of objects.
The organization teaches people of any age, background, or ability, and it believes that anyone can learn to develop functional images of their environment to find more freedom by ‘seeing’ in a new way.
Additionally, the organization has developed new ways to use the long cane, which is more effective and easier to learn than the cane techniques traditionally taught to blind people. Innovations include the handshake grasp, which reduces the wrist and hand pain that blind people often suffer from when holding a cane in the traditional way; as well as the ‘feather touch’, whereby the tip of the cane does not drag or scrape along with its full weight, but instead glides lightly over the contours of the ground.
With Flashsonar, World Access for the Blind is rewriting the mobility instructor certification practice, a professional certification to demonstrate professional competency that supports quality service delivery to persons with vision impairments. For some employment opportunities this certification is mandatory in the United States and other countries.
- Since 2001, individual and group trainings to more than 2,000 students.
- Since 2001, 85 professional development workshops on Flashsonar and the long cane for more than 3,000 service providers in 39 countries
- The project has been featured in over 150 major publications and broadcasts, reaching an audience of over 2 billion viewers globally in high-profile forums such as Ted, TEDx PopTech, and the Idea Festival.
The project has expanded internationally by using the ‘training-of trainers’ model, which prepares blind trainees to instruct other blind or visually impaired persons. Further, the organization has published a textbook and a set of training materials to help students, families, and other instructors develop their own freedom with less dependence on local institutions.