Benjamin Underwood tilts his head, and the sun lights up his deeply set eyes. They are the color of milk chocolate, and they are only for show. Cancer took Ben's real eyes when he was a toddler, more than a decade ago.
But at 14, Ben has his own vision of the world, and he is a master navigator. Using echolocation, a skill common in dolphins and bats but rarely documented in humans, Ben creates sounds that bounce off of objects and allow him to decipher obstacles in his path. That talent, combined with his superbly refined senses of hearing, smell and touch, allows Ben to "see" remarkably well. Just ask his mother, Aquanetta Gordon, or his teachers at Smedberg Middle School in Sacramento, or his many, many friends...
It is easy to forget that Ben is blind when he is zipping down his neighborhood streets on inline skates or whipping an opponent, one with perfect vision, at the video game Dragon Ball. Ben cannot fully explain how he does these things. "It's something I taught myself when I was little, and I just got better," he says...
He clicks his tongue. "I can hear those parked cars," he says, pointing toward the street. "That's a big echo, much bigger than a trash can or a pole." Metal, he says, makes a "pinging" sound, while wood sounds more muted. Human beings are harder to detect, but "I can hear y'all standing there," Ben says.
I thought the exact same thing when I read the article...
Me too ... In fact I said "Wow!" out loud before seeing your closing comment!
We discussed this boy in my eighth grade Language Arts class after reading a poem about not letting a handicap stop you from living. One of my students said her father is this boy's eye doctor and he is amazed by him all the time. What an inspiration.
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