Blind Students Survey Grand Canyon Soundscape

During the summer of 2008, 12 sighted and 12 visually impaired students with the Grand Canyon Youth program participated in an acoustic research study done in Grand Canyon National Park to determine the makeup and possible deterioration of the surrounding soundscape.  Essentially, a soundscape is the combination of natural and man-made sounds that can be heard in different places throughout the park.  Teamed up in pairs of sighted and visually impaired students, the groups used a series of hand signals to communicate back and forth.  The visually impaired students would use their heightened sense of hearing to gather acoustic data and then relay that data to their sighted partner using those hand signals.  The study is the first of its kind it that area due to the otherwise costly and time consuming effort it would require. 

The blind students reported hearing natural sounds like the river, thunder storms in the distance, rocks falling, even insect chirps.  They also heard airplane propellers, jets, and helicopters. 

While this survey may seem unnecessary to some, it’s important to have this data to measure the amount of noise pollution that is affecting natural soundscapes.  By using visually impaired students, they can become a seriously important part of the research being done in the national park and have the opportunity to learn about soundscape preservation and how much it affects the entire experience someone would have when going through the park.  The project went so well, that they planned another in the summer of 2009 and will most likely continue to work with the Grand Canyon Youth again in 2010. 

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