The Ben Underwood Story
was a young man from Riverside, California. At the age of two, he was diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma, a type of cancer that affects both eyes. His right eye was the first to go, after the disease completely consumed it.
Nearly a year was spent trying to save the left eye, but to no avail. In order to save his life, his mother Aquanetta was forced to have both his eyes surgically removed. Though she felt conflicted, she was determined to keep him alive by any means necessary after having lost her father to cancer as well.
To everyone's surprise, Ben continued to go about life as if he could still see. He still participated in many of the same activities he'd enjoyed before losing his eyes; riding bikes, rollerskating and playing basketball just like anyone else his age.
He was particularly adept at playing video games — by memorizing the sounds made by the characters and actions; he trained himself to play games without needing to see what was on the screen. People who knew him would often say that it was like he wasn't even blind.
Several animal species are known to use echolocation; biological sonar, where the animal listens to echoes made by its own calls in order to detect other objects. Microbats are perhaps the most well known creature to use this technique. With their natural sonar, they navigate through the darkness of their environment and track down prey.
Interestingly, it is possible for humans to replicate this effect to a certain extent as well. While the concept of human echolocation might seem somewhat extraordinary, there are a number of notable people who used it to overcome blindness and supplement their inability to see properly.
From the age of five, Ben Underwood began using echolocation to sense his surroundings in the absence of vision. He would make clicking noises with his tongue and listen to the echoes in order to perceive objects around him. He would sometimes practice by standing in the middle of the street and seeing how far the echo would go.
Other times he would try listening for echoes made by ambient sounds and stationary objects without using the clicking technique. Soon it became second nature to him, effectively supplanting his need for eyesight and allowing him to overcome blindness.
Because of how well this method worked for him, Ben Underwood never really considered himself handicapped at all — he even insisted that he didn't need a cane, seeing them strictly as tools for handicapped people. Another famous blind person named Daniel Kish demonstrated his method for combining the use of a cane with echolocation to enhance mobility, but Ben never adopted the technique for his own personal use.
Throughout his life, his mother never coddled him or treated him as if his disability meant he couldn't do the same things as other people. He was always told that his blindness wasn't something that could stop him from doing the things he wanted to do. Aquanetta considered him proof that even though you should Protect Your Eyesight, it is possible to overcome blindness and live a normal, healthy life.
Ben Underwood went to be with our Lord and Savior early in the morning, on January 19th, 2009. He was praising Jesus until the very last minute, and he had no fear of what was going to happen. He knew that God was preparing to bring him home. You can read more here
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Ben Underwood to Facts About Eyesight
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