Picture this scenario: You're about tobegin your descent to Living Roots bridge at Nohwet village, all pumped up and readyto make the journey down, mindful of the unevenness of the terrain and thedescent. You look around and the weather is pleasant, the warmth of the sunbeating down on your head and a light breeze blowing across the hills. Youreyes scan the area, clearly identifying the tree-line, the width of the path,the ridges and the oncoming tourists, all the while telling you exactly whereyou need to traverse to make it down to the bridge in the safest and mostefficient manner. It is peak season for tourism and you should expect a lot oftourists to pass you by as they marvel at the wonder of the Living RootsBridge.
And then you come across three persons with visual impairment (blind) ready to embark on what many would probably testify to, as the first unassisted navigation of the landscape in the Living Roots by persons with visual impairment, their determination to reach the bridge as well as climb the treehouse. Unbelievable, right? It's not as crazy as it sounds. On the 20th of July 2019, three such individuals namely Benister Kharpor, Hawkilara Axelsen and Thomas Tajo decided to take a plunge into the deep end of navigation to draw in as much of the experience of traveling to the tourist destinations first hand with a sense of independence. Amazing, isn't it? Although their world is plunged into darkness, that has not impeded their mobility or their independence. How did they manage all this? Just with the sharp click of their tongues. Yes! Just a click with their tongues, which is part of the method of Echolocation, a skill that enables them to move around obstacles in their path while identifying the density, distance and dimensions of the objects around them.
Mr. Thomas Tajo, currently residing inBelgium, is a blind Echolocation Flash Sonar and Perceptual Navigationalinstructor for the Visioneers which is an organization based in California. Echolocation is the same technique used bybats, dolphins and whales and as a form of biomimicry has been adopted byhumans for navigational purposes. Mr. Thomas Tajo was in Shillong to conduct aworkshop on Navigational Perception and Echolocation for persons with visualimpairment from the 23rd -26th of July 2019 that wasorganized by Organization for Inclusive Development (OFID). His dream is toequip all persons with visual impairment with the skills of echolocation forindependent mobility in the north east of India.