By Jeremiah WAKAYA| @WakayaKE
He has won admiration and envy in equal measure. His ability to activate the visual part of his brain to enable him to accurately perceive things around him has proven to people around the globe that indeed disability is not inability. Not only does he use this unique gift to navigate around, Kish has trained other visually impaired persons to use echolocation to identify things around them.
Daniel Kish is a 50-year old American citizen who became blind when he was 13-months old, holds masters degrees in development psychology and special education. Kish learnt how to “see” things around him using echolocation; a technique through which the identity of an object is told by the nature of the sound such objects reflect.
This technique has majorly been used by animals such as dolphins and bats according to scientific research to help them navigate through the night. And so for Kish, he finds his way around by clicking his tongue which in return produces flashes of sound that bounce off surfaces of objects returning sounds that help him figure out what kind of an object could be surrounding him.
Kish, who is now an expert in human echolocation and President of World Access for the Blind, a non-profit organization he founded in 2000, has helped over 500 visually impaired children around the world master echolocation.
In an interview with BBC’s Helena Merriman, Kish narrates how he has helped several children acquire the unique ability. During the recording for the programme The Documentary which was first aired on BBC Radio 4 and subsequently on BBC World Service, Kish trains a 10-year old Ethan who was offered a place at St Mary’s School in Scotland after having been home-schooled for the past nine years.
In a training that lasts for 10 days, Kish otherwise nicknamed as “Batman” teaches the little boy echolocation in preparation for his admission in his new school.
Apart from mastering the art of “seeing through sound”, Kish is also the first totally blind person a legally Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS).He also holds a National Blindness Professional Certification (NOMC).
His work has also inspired a number of scientific studies related to human echolocation including a study by University of Alcalá in Madrid in 2009 where navigation skills were taught ten sighted subjects within a few days.
Kish has also appeared in popular talk shows such as TED where he challenged his audience to let go of fear of the “dark unknown.”