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Sunday, September 16, 2007

I'm a Sucker for Human Interest Stories.....Especially if There's A Superhero Theme Involved-Introducing Ben Underwood

I must tip my hat to our resident commenter, Mario for bringing this story to my attention. It's a terrific allegory of a young man overcoming a handicap and moving forward with minimal assistance. And of course, his abilities are analogous to one of my favorite fictional characters, Matt Murdock a.k.a. Daredevil. Check out more on Ben Underwood, our own daredevil, courtesy of People.com:

The Boy Who Sees with Sound
Blind since age 3, Ben Underwood skateboards, shoots hoops and plays video games. How does he do it? Just like bats and dolphins

There was the time a fifth grader thought it would be funny to punch the blind kid and run. So he snuck up on Ben Underwood and hit him in the face. That's when Ben started his clicking thing. "I chased him, clicking until I got to him, then I socked him a good one," says Ben, a skinny 14-year-old. "He didn't reckon on me going after him. But I can hear walls, parked cars, you name it. I'm a master at this game."

Ask people about Ben Underwood and you'll hear dozens of stories like this – about the amazing boy who doesn't seem to know he's blind. There's Ben zooming around on his skateboard outside his home in Sacramento; there he is playing kickball with his buddies. To see him speed down hallways and make sharp turns around corners is to observe a typical teen – except, that is, for the clicking. Completely blind since the age of 3, after retinal cancer claimed both his eyes (he now wears two prostheses), Ben has learned to perceive and locate objects by making a steady stream of sounds with his tongue, then listening for the echoes as they bounce off the surfaces around him. About as loud as the snapping of fingers, Ben's clicks tell him what's ahead: the echoes they produce can be soft (indicating metals), dense (wood) or sharp (glass). Judging by how loud or faint they are, Ben has learned to gauge distances.

The technique is called echolocation, and many species, most notably bats and dolphins, use it to get around. But a 14-year-old boy from Sacramento? While many blind people listen for echoes to some degree, Ben's ability to navigate in his sightless world is, say experts, extraordinary. "His skills are rare," says Dan Kish, a blind psychologist and leading teacher of echomobility among the blind. "Ben pushes the limits of human perception."

To read the People article in its entirety, click on the link below:

The Boy Who Sees with Sound

And to see Ben in action, here's another link:

People.com-Video footage Of Ben Underwood

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