Boy uses sound to see

July 18, 2006

Ben Underwood, a blind 14-year-old, has taught himself to use human echolocation to perceive his surroundings:

Full story (People magazine)
(via Boingboing)

It’s essentially the same technique that bats use to navigate around obstacles in dark caves, but Ben uses it in everyday life; to walk around, dance, skateboard and even ride a bike:

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.

It’s an amazing story, and one that showcases the incredible courage, determination and self-belief of a young man who, in the world’s eyes, suffers from a severe disability. Ben doesn’t see it that way, though:

“I tell people I’m not blind,” he says. “I just can’t see.”


One Response to “Boy uses sound to see”

  1. Kat Says:

    I remember seeing this on the news one day and it blew me away. I’m sure anyone can learn how to do the same thing. The courage of this boy is indeed incredible.

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