Ben Underwood had his eyes surgically removed at the age of three due to cancer. He discovered human echolocation at the age of seven and now uses it to accomplish such feats as running, rollerblading, foosball and playing video games. Human echolocation involves creating an environmental image by hearing echoes bouncing from those objects. It is similar in principle to sonar and to the animal echolocation employed by bats and dolphins. Human echolocation has been studied since at least the 1950’s but is still not completely understood. Ray Charles was said to use a variation of the technique by wearing hard-bottomed shoes, the change in sound alerted him to when we had passed through a doorway. However, very few people have mastered human echolocation to a superhuman level like Ben Underwood.
Ben passed away January 19, 2009. He was taken by the same cancer that claimed is sight and leaves behind a legacy of inspiration few will ever match.