A congenitally blind Australian woman can see through walls using a special ability that some animals use. Julee-Anne Bell, 42, uses echolocation or the use of sounds and echoes to locate objects surrounding her.
"I can hear layers of sound, the denseness of the wall, the sparseness of the trees behind. I can tell you the shape of a car, whether it's still, if it's high or low, long or short, or a four-wheel drive," she said.
She learned her special ability from American expert, Daniel Kish, who lost his eyes when he was 13 years old. He is now teaching blind children and teens to use palatal sounds to help them navigate through their surroundings through a non-profit organization, World Access for the Blind.
When she heard of Kish's documentary on echolocation and how it can be taught to blind people, she spent $6,000 and invited him to Brisbane, Australia for her training. For eight days, along with 25 kids with impaired vision, she learned the art of echolocation.
Ms. Bell is now teaching her ability and expertise, which is dubbed FlashSonar, to around 150 blind individuals in the organization's Australia chapter.
Echolocation or bio sonar is the ability to detect objects based on echoes they project. Animals like dolphins, bats and porpoises would emit sounds or calls to the environment and echoes would help them identify the location of things that surround them. Bats are the animals that use this ability to navigate in total darkness.
Both hearing and vision work by processing reflected waves of energy. The eyes reflect light waves and ears reflect sound waves.
The sense of hearing process information about the environment by interpreting the complex patterns of reflected energy called echoes by objects around them. Hence, echoes transfer spatial information similar to that of how light is reflected.
Ms. Bell was invited to share her experience on the show, "Insight: Sensational" on Tuesday which was broadcasted on SBS.
"It's about experiencing the world on my own terms. Before, my kids felt they might have to be more responsible for mom; this keeps the roles as they should be. I'm not dependent or a burden on them," Ms. Bell added.