WAFTB takes Perceptual Freedom to Thailand via FlashSonar and full-length canes. Image shows WAFTB Instructors Brian Bushway and Juan Ruiz standing with the Administration, staff and students of the Foundation for the Blind in Thailand.

ASSIGNMENT: THAILAND ECHOLOCATION

THE ASSIGNMENT

World Access for the Blind (WAFTB) was privileged to recently provide a special 11- day training course in FlashSonar™ Echolocation to student mobility coaches in Thailand.

The training is a joint effort by King Prajadhipok’s Institute (Thai monarch 1925 to 1935), the Foundation for the Blind in Thailand under the patronage of Her Majesty The Queen, and Good Intentions, a volunteer group.

We offer our heartfelt condolences to Her Majesty and members of the Thai Royal Family, and to the people of Thailand who are mourning the death on October 13th of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX) , one of the world’s longest-serving monarchs.

WAFTB's Juan Ruiz leads students in Bangkok, Thailand. Image shows a statue and hi-rise buildings in the background.

THE PRECEDENT

World Access for the Blind feels especially privileged to have honored the late His Majesty The King’s adage that “To help them [the blind] obtain skills to navigate more freely on their own is tantamount to enhancing their independence.”

WAFTB Perceptual Navigation Instructors Brian Bushway and Juan Ruiz were immediately impressed by everyone’s warm friendliness and enthusiasm to learn.

Soon after their arrival, it became evident that there were many opportunities to build new ‘pathways’ to independence, beginning with the introduction of the full-length canes from WAFTB. While some were hesitant at first, all the students eventually loved the extended perception the canes enabled.

King Rama IX - Bhumibol Adulyadej. Image shows the late King in gold ceremonial robes with a gold arched ceiling in the background.
H.M. King Bhumibol plays with Benny Goodman in New York City. Photo shows the King playing saxophone while Benny Goodman plays clarinet in the bandleader's New York Apartment in 1960.

ROYAL PATRONAGE: The Musical King

During the period of mourning for H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the Foundation for the Blind in Thailand under the Patronage of H.M. The Queen, is fondly remembering Their Majesties’ many visits to the Bangkok School For The Blind over the years.

The King himself had been blinded in one eye and paralyzed in half of his face because of a car accident in 1948 in Lausanne, Switzerland where he was studying.

Known as ‘the musical King’, the Foundation writes on its website: “His Majesty was particularly fond of blind singers and musicians, especially of the pianist Mr.Piya Kosinanont.

During one of His many visits to the Bangkok School for the Blind, His Majesty graciously asked the students what kind of musical instrument they would like to have. One asked readily : a saxophone!

His Majesty in person took care that the blind student got one and graciously even took the task to teach him how to play it by inviting that blind student together with two other friends, to take lessons at the Royal Residence three times a week.

His Majesty would enjoy jamming with the blind musicians and singers who frequently visited the Royal Residence. Mr.Wimon Ong-amporn, one of the lucky students of those times, remembers how His Majesty would lead them to play in the Dixie Land jazz style and teach them proper lip techniques.

His Majesty graciously composed the song : Yim Su as an encouragement to the blind. His Majesty in person graciously taught the lyrics and the tone to the lead-singer of the chorus of the Bangkok School for the Blind.

The song “Yim Su” was first sung at the Charity Ball that the Foundation for the Blind organized in 1952.The Bangkok School for the Blind adopted the song “Yim Su” as the hymn of the school.” Read more about The King.

H. M The King Bhumibol | H.M. Queen Sirikit of Thailand. Image: Photograph of the Royal Coupe in formal wear in the 1960s.
Image: H.M. King Bhumibol teaches a lesson on the saxophone.
WAFTB Perceptual Navigation Instructor Brian Bushway leads students in Bangkok. Photo shows the group on a lush tree lined street with their full-length canes extended.
The September fundraiser for the Echolocation project. Image shows organizers of the See The World Charity Event in formal attire.
The traditional 'blind leading the blind' navigation. Image shows students from the Foundation for the blind in Thailand walking with their left arm holding the right arm of the person in front of them as they walk into an event at a local hotel.

PROJECT FLASHSONAR™ ECHOLOCATION

In late September, celebrity entrepreneurs behind the Good Intentions Foundation in Thailand organized the ‘See The World Charity Event’ at the Sofitel So Bangkok Hotel to raise money to bring training in FlashSonar™ Echolocation to Bangkok.

As The Nation Newspaper/Website reported: “The two experts booked to lead the course are from World Access for the Blind, a US-based international non-profit, non-governmental and educational organisation that aids in the physical, mental and personal development of people with all forms of blindness.

It also raises public awareness about the strengths and capabilities of blind people.” Those two experts are WAFTB Perceptual Navigation Instructors Brian Bushway and Juan Ruiz.

The Bangkok Post Newspaper/Website reported: “Following the late His Majesty the King’s words about the importance of helping the disadvantaged — particularly the blind — the first nine blind coaches in Thailand are being trained to navigate using human echolocation. At the end of an 11-day training course conducted by World Access For The Blind, the nine coaches should be able to train other visually-impaired people, said Professor ML Taya Kitiyakara, President of the Project.

The training is a joint effort by King Prajadhipok’s Institute (Thai monarch 1925 to 1935), the Foundation for the Blind in Thailand under the Patronage of H.M. The Queen, and the Good Intentions Foundation, a volunteer group. Khan Prachuabmoh, Chairman of the Foundation for the Blind in Thailand, said the training was in line with the late King’s advice.

As training began, outfitting the coaching students with full-length canes was the first step toward teaching them independent navigation, rather than walking in the linked-arm ‘elephant formation’. The euphoric feeling of what WAFTB calls ‘Perceptual Freedom’ began to slowly take shape among the students as they challenged their traditional teachings.

WAFTB's Juan Ruiz and Brian Bushway are introduced to members of the Foundation for the Blind in Thailand and the news media.
Juan and Brian teach the students full-length cane navigation. Image shows both Instructors working with a line of students on the grounds of a zoo in Bangkok.
WAFTB Instructors briand Bushway and Juan Ruiz briefing their blind student coaches. Image. The students are seated in a semi-circle of chairs as Brian and Juan brief them via an interpreter.
Brian Bushway supervises FlashSonar click orientation. Image: Coach trainee holds a pot to the right of another coach trainee as he clicks to find its location.
Students click to gauge is the dish is left, right or center. Image. Female student stands behind a seated male student and holds a dish in front of him. He feels the dish after clicking and correctly 'seeing' its location with sound.
Then it's off to the zoo to try out their new canes and skills. Image shows a female student coach walking up a pedestrian bridge with an observer and Brian Bushway in the background.
IMage: Map of the Dusit Zoo in Bangkok, Thailand
Tactile exhibits give a whole new meaning to 'hands-ono'.Image: Students feel the teeth and body textures of a stuffed crocodile.
Brian Bushway braves a different set of live 'chompers'. Image shows Brian feeling the tusk and cheek of a hippopotamus that has opened its mouth wide for feeding time.
Volunteers from Good Intentions tote water and snacks. Image. A volunteer pulls a cart with water and snacks behind the group of students walking in the distance as they leave the zoo.
WAFTB Perceptual Navigation Instructor Juan Ruiz claps to gauge the surroundings. Image. Juan Ruiz leads blind students into an open square in Bangkok as they navigate with their full-length canes.

WATCHING PERCEPTUAL FREEDOM SPREAD IN THAILAND

As you may have noticed from many of the photographs, the student coaches from the Foundation For The Blind In Thailand under the Patronage of Her Majesty The Queen, have been conditioned to walking in a row, each one behind the other.

Once Brian and Juan introduced them to the full-length canes, along with the FlashSonar™ clicks, their world lit up before them and they were encouraged to move independently of one another. The echoes from the clicks have been scientifically proven to light-up the brain’s Visual Cortex with acoustic imaging.

As the group walked to a local market, the National Science Center and an ancient Temple, their skills began to improve and they experienced an emerging level of self-directed independence they had never known before. All of them found their own unique ways to test out the combination of new skills they were learning.

One student was hesitant to use the full-length cane, but after trying it and objectively comparing the results to his previous shorter cane, he was convinced of the benefits the extended range provided.

Enjoy the training travelogue of some of the best that Thailand has to offer courtesy of the wonderful photography of Taksa Aura-ek, Warawat Bibb Sabhavasu, Taya Kitiyakara and the work of others that we’re grateful to showcase.

Juan Ruiz shows why he earned two Guinness World Records. Image shows Juan riding a bicycle between two cards on the parking lot of the Foundation for the Blinf in Thailand in Bangkok.
The student coaches try out their new canes in public. Image shows one of the students walking with his full-length cane.
Taking in all the aromas and textures of the market. Image shows a volunteer guiding a female student's hand to some larges prawns at the fish market.
A rush of well-intentioned but unnecessary assistance. Image shows a woman rushing to help one of the blind female students as she approaches some stairs.
Group portrait time. Next stop tomorrow: the National Science Museum of Thailand. Image shows Juan and brian standing with the students and volunteers in the public market.
Flash sonar training at Thai National Science Museum. Image: Students are trying their clicks at the center of a parabolic satellite receiver dish.
Boldly going where no echolocaters have gone before. Image: Brian and Juan pose with their heads inside cutouts of space suits.
Seeing with sound at the National Science Museum. Image: Juan and the students stand nearby as Brian Bushway stands on a large piano keyboard floor like the one Tom Hanks stepped on in the movie 'Big'.
Juan and Brian standby as the coaching students prepare to enter the Science Dome. Image: Students stand by the circular entrance as they prepare to navigate a walkway flanked by blue lighting as they enter the Science Dome.
Image: Aerial view of Ayutthaya Historical Park with a central temple surrounded nu a square wall with 8 prangs or towers at each corner and in the middle of each wall.
The training moves on to Ayutthaya Historical Park. Image shows instructors and students standing next to a wall of the ruins.
Students get tactile with the ruins that date to 1351. Image. Students raise their canes high against the decaying brick walls of the ruins under the supervision of Brian Bushway and Juan Ruiz.
Students also get tactile with the sculpted adornments. Image. Juan RUiz supervises as the coaching students pracitise FlashSonar along the walls of the ruins and feel the top of walls that are adorned with brightly painted sculptures of birds.
WAFTB's Brian Bushway helps a coaching student adjust his full-length cane technique. Image. Photo shows rays from the sun streaming down as Brian Bushway and a student step down from a passageway between the ruins at Ayutthaya Historical Park in Thailand.
Juan Ruiz, Taya Kitiyakara, Khan Prachuabmoh, Brian Bushway. Image. Juan Ruiz and Brian Bushway stand with Project President Professor ML Taya Kitiyakara and Khan Prachuabmoh, Chairman of the Foundation For The Blind In Thailand under the Patronage of Her Majesty The Queen.

 ฉันหวังว่าจะได้พบคุณอีกเร็ว ๆ นี้ 

SEE YOU AGAIN SOON

Perceptual Navigation Instructors Brian Bushway and Juan Ruiz have had a busy 11 days, meeting many new friends, teaching them to ‘see with sound’ and be more self-directed in their journey to Perceptual Freedom.

They’re grateful for the warmth and friendliness of the Thai people, as well as for the many hospitalities and aspects of Thai culture shared with them.

WAFTB is grateful for the opportunity to work with the co-ordinating organizations and looks forward to returning to extend the experience to more blind persons in Thailand. We send everyone involved with the project a big ‘Thank You’ and our very Best Wishes.

After Brian and Juan depart, it's practice time at the zoo. Image. Student coaches get instructions from Professor ML Taya Kitiyakara at the Dusit Zoo in Bangkok, Thailand.
Brian Bushway and Juan Ruiz with Professor ML Taya Kitiyakara, staff and student coaches of the Foundation For The Blind in Thailand under the patronage of Her Majesty The Queen.

MORE HEADLINES

Headline: WAFTB Student Alexia Sloane Earns composing honors. Image shows Alexia sitting at a desk, working with her Braille computer.
Headline: WAFTB Student Ethan Loch Wins Award At Vatican. Image shows Ethan accepting the award, with help from his mother Larinda, from a Cardinal who is the honorary President of the Giuseppe Scaccia Organization.
Headline: Brian Bushway and FlashSonar on 'Explain Things To Me'. Image shows WAFTB Instructor Brian Bushway on the program's science-themed set with co-hosts Anna Akana and Brad Gage.

BE THE SPARK THAT LIGHTS-UP MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR BLIND PERSONS TO SEE WITH SOUND

The echoes from our FlashSonar™ echolocation clicks act like sparks lighting up the brain’s Visual Cortex with acoustic imaging.

Global media coverage of our work has led to a waiting list of many blind people who want to learn our advanced mobility techniques, and many blind and sighted people who want to train with us to become Perceptual Navigation Instructors.

Let your donation be the spark of opportunity that helps to create jobs right here in the USA and gives blind people the chance to light-up their world by learning to

SEE WITH SOUND.

Thank you!

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