Ben Underwood was just a few weeks shy of his third birthday when his eyes were surgically removed because of retinal cancer. With his Mother pushing him to use the senses he still had in order to get around, Ben began learning to live like most blind individuals, but only until he started doing things that only sighted people can do.
As he got older, Ben began playing games like Foosball, and he rode bicycles, electric scooters, roller-blades, and he even had a yellow belt in Karate. If his brothers or sisters were doing something, then like all young children, he wanted to try it too. Those who knew Ben, knew that he never shied away from trying something new, not even video games.
One day his mother took him to see a doctor, and while he was waiting, he played with his Game Boy. When the doctor walked in and saw Ben, he looked at his chart and walked back over to look at his eyes. The doctor looked down to see if he was really playing the game and exclaimed to his mother, "His eyes are nucleated." Ben's mother replied, "Oh yes, he's blind." The doctor asked, "How the heck does he play video games?" That is how it was discovered that Ben uses echolocation as dolphins and bats do to see the his world.
Human echolocation involves creating an environmental image by hearing echoes bouncing off objects like sonar. It is quite similar to the kind of echolocation employed by bats, dolphins, and even a dog I wrote an article about had the ability.
Human echolocation has been studied since 1950's but is still not completely understood. The legendary blind singer, Ray Charles, was said to use a variation of the technique by wearing hard-bottomed shoes. The change in sounds made by floors made from different materials would alert him when he passed through doorways or entered different rooms. However, very few people have ever mastered human echolocation to a seemingly superhuman level like Ben Underwood did.
Sad to say, Ben passed away on January 19, 2009, when the cancer that took his eyes returned and eventually spread to his brain and spine. Ben was raised to believe in Christ, and it is because of that belief that today he is with the Lord. He may only have lived 16 years in the world, but he now has an eternity to see the things that God would like us all to see. You can read more about Ben Underwood by checking out the web site his mother set up in his honor.