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Beginner's Guide to Echolocation for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Beginner's Guide to Echolocation for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Tim Johnson (with Justin Louchart.) North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012,168 pp., $25.16.

Throughout history, the literature reports observations and scientific studies examining the phenomenon of "facial vision": the use of reflected sound, object perception, and echolocation among individuals who are blind or severely visually impaired (Wiener, Welsh, & Blasch, 2010; Thaler, Arnott, & Goodale, 2011). Although children who are born blind develop their senses to perceive objects and obstacles in their environment (Arnott, Thaler, Milne, Kish, & Goodale, 2013), both individuals who are congenitally visually impaired and those who have lost their sight as youths or adults rely on orientation and mobility (O&M) specialists to teach them how to listen for changes in the quality of the sounds they hear in their environment in order to perceive obstacles and to better understand the reason for the changes in quality of sound which they are experiencing and put their skills to more effective use.


Within the last several decades, more attention has been placed on teaching individuals who are blind to develop echolocation skills not only to recognize obstacles, recessed entries, building lines, and hallways, but also to analyze the quality of sounds to determine distance, size, composition, and materials of objects and to identify such objects in the environment. Much of the impetus for increased instruction in, and ultimately more effective daily use of, reflected sound can be credited to the publications, website, presentations, demonstrations, workshops, and media coverage of Daniel Kish, a dually certified O&M instructor (Kish, 2003).

As an O&M specialist for over 40 years and as a professional who has studied and taught blind and severely visually impaired students to utilize their senses to better self-orient and travel in all types of unfamiliar environments, I was excited when I learned that there was a new and easily accessible publication available on echolocation. Beginner's Guide to Echolocation for the Blind and Visually Impaired is just what its title states, a beginner's introduction to echolocation. Written by Tim Johnson (with Justin Louchart, who is listed as co-author on the title page of the text, but as a contributor online), this short, 168-page paperback is available in print and audio formats. Johnson is identified in the About the Author section as "a full[-]time engineer," but no biographical information is given for Louchart.


The book is divided into six parts that include an introduction to echolocation; a personal philosophy about the benefits and ease of learning echolocation; a brief introduction to the science of echolocation that emphasizes the auditory aspects of the practice; strategies for producing sounds (clicks) or active and passive signals (naturally occurring environmental sounds) used for echolocation; some simple sample lessons; and a brief list of primarily Internet-based resources for continued training and white papers on the subject.

It is an easy and fast read presented in an informal lecture style. Although the author cites and provides references for websites that include informational articles and white papers, he does not provide citations for quotes, references to scientific studies on echolocation, or any supporting documentation as a way to confirm accuracy and veracity. The author emphasizes his philosophies, beliefs, and hopes that the book will serve as a self-study for both blind and sighted individuals in acquiring echolocation skills. He hopes that sighted people will become interested in echolocation and train themselves to utilize this specialized skill that is normally associated with individuals who are blind. As an academic who is always looking for additional resources and supporting research, this reviewer found the absence of citations in this publication disconcerting.


In addition to its lack of scientific citations, the book is limited to the basics. This reviewer would have preferred the book to have emphasized echolocation skill development through more highly developed and expansive sample lessons. (Readers may wish to read and study Kish, 2003, for more detailed training ideas.) There are only 32 pages devoted to echolocation lessons, a relatively small part of the total book. For readers who are unfamiliar with echolocation, this book serves as a relaxed introduction to the topic. I suspect that readers will be left wanting more.


Arnott, S. R., Thaler, L., Milne, J. L., Kish, D., & Goodale, M. A. (2013). Shape-specific activation of occipital cortex in an early blind echolocation expert. Neuropsychologia, 51(5), 938-949.

Kish, D. (2003). Sonic echolocation: A modern review and synthesis of the literature [online]. Placentia, CA: World Access for the Blind. Retrieved from: http://www. files/echolocationreview.htm

Thaler, L., Arnott, S. R., & Goodale, M. A. (2011). Neural correlates of natural human echolocation in early and late blind echolocation experts. PLoS ONE, 6(5), e20162. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020162

Wiener, W. R., Welsh, R. L., & Blasch, B. B. (Eds.) (2010). Foundations of Orientation and Mobility (3rd edition): Vol. 1 History and Theory and Vol. 2 Instructional Strategies and Practical Applications. New York: AFB Press.

Kathleen M. Huebner, Ph.D., professor emeritus and retired director of the National Consortium for Leadership in Sensory Disabilities, College of Education and Rehabilitation, Salus University, 8360 Old York Road, Elkins Park, PA 19027; e-mail: <>.
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Author:Huebner, Kathleen M.
Publication:Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2013
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