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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 90.djvu/433

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Blind Boy Athletes

How Dr. Hart taught bHnd boys to camp, swim, run races and enjoy themselves just as if they could see

���They are blind but they can "see" just the same — with their fingers. Here they are constructing a tool and chicken house

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��ONE of the most notable achievements of the year at the Pennsylvania Insti- tution for the Instruction of the Blind at Overbrook has resulted from the develop- ment of a bit of knowledge about the blind which has been current for more than a hundred years — the knowledge that one who loses his sight develops a remarkable sensitiveness in the forehead.

Examination of a human skull shows that the thick, bony substance in the middle of the forehead is really a mass of small cells. For years the blind have told their instruc- tors that they "feel" the presence of others, the nearness of a wall, even a flying missile, in these cells. The sensation is of a sudden density. Little use was made of this knowledge until a year ago, when Dr. Charles D. Hart, of the Overbrook institu- tion, formed the world's first troop of Blind Boy Scouts, Number io8 in the Philadelphia Council.

These blind scouts were allowed to camp out just like other scouts. They swam, and went boating. They built fires, went on long hikes, cooked their own meals and set

��up their tents. But even more remarkable was their ability to travel over rough ground without stumbling. The explana- tion of this is to be found in muscle balance; it is not a new discovery. It is an extraordi- nary heightening of the sense of touch in the soles of the feet. But like the other bit of knowledge it never had been put to practical use; in fact, it never had been given a fair test under conditions where the blind could be absolutely removed from the feeling of submission to assistance. Says Dr. Hart in this connection:

"Balance is made up partly of muscle control and partly of the control made possible by the sense of sight and the accompanying judgment of distance. When the sight is gone, the first thing that the blind person discovers upon atternpting to stand or wallc is that it is extremely difficult to maintain the equilibrium. But Nature quickly compensates for the loss of sight by the increased sensitiveness of the tactile nerves in the soles of the feet.

"While out on hikes with the Blind Boy Scouts I have witnessed a running boy halt for an imper- ceptible fraction of a second at the edge of a gully, then step into and out of it with all the surefooted- ness of one who could see. There is but one excep- tion to the ability of the blind to feel their way

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