Innovative Practice 2018 on Accessibility

Teaching the clicking of tongue technique to navigate

World Access for the Blind (WAFTB) is a non-profit organization located in Placentia, California, USA, which works to strengthen the physical, mental, and personal development of the blind and people with all ability challenges. The organization has developed Flashsonar, a technique that helps the visually impaired to use their own ‘human sonar’ to perceive their surroundings by using a clicking-of-tongue technique. Since 2001, WAFTB has provided individual and group trainings to more than 2,000 students..

“Samuel picked up the clicking quite easily. We’re so proud and hope he’ll be able to choose the quality of life he wants, rather than having it mapped out for him.”

Jackie Oldridgespeaking of her seven-year-old son
About the practice at a glance
Name of Innovative Practice:Teaching the clicking of tongue technique to navigate
Organisation:World Access for the Blind
Country
of Implementation
USA

FACTS & FIGURES

  • 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.

PROBLEMS TARGETED

People with visual impairments or low vision often face difficulties self-navigating outside well-known environments, e.g., while traveling or simply walking down a crowded street.

SOLUTION, INNOVATION, AND IMPACT

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.
A boy with visual impairments being trained to famiilarise with his surroundings in the woods.
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, WAFTB has held 85 professional development workshops on Flashsonar and the long cane for more than 3,000 service providers in 39 countries.

OUTLOOK, TRANSFERABILITY AND FUNDING

The project has expanded internationally by using the ‘training-of trainers’ model, which prepares blind trainees to Children with visual impairments being trained to familiarise with their surroundings on a grass field.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.
Flashsonar’s funding comes from public grants (10 per cent), private donors and fundraising (25 per cent), and such project income as student tuition and service fees from agencies (65 per cent).
FACTSHEET

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VIDEO

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