Ben Underwood was born in 1992 as a normal healthy baby. When he was two he was diagnosed with retinal cancer and a year later had to get his eyes removed. At the age of five he started teaching himself echolocation and could detect the object’s location by making certain noises using his tongue. He could accomplish activities like playing football and bicycling through echolocation. According to his doctor he was the most excellent human echolocator in the world. In 2009, Underwood aged 16 died due to the same cancer. He was the inspiration for Andrzej Jakimowski, a Polish Film director. He also made a film titled “Imagine” in 2012 about the life of an echolocation instructor to work with visually challenged.
Ben’s right eye was completely damaged due to the cancer and had to be removed. He went through chemos and radiation therapies to save the other eye but could not succeed. After that he completely lost his vision. The episode left his family shattered but they have been very strong too. His mother and siblings adopted different roles and helped him. His brother trained him in his daily chores such as finding his clothes, putting on his socks, describing the surroundings to help him. While shopping, he used to feel everything by touching. Soon he was playing video games, skating, and doing things as if he was completely fine. He practiced rigorously to see the intensity of his echo to help him do things on his own. He also practiced hearing the environment without the echo. His family was liberal and supportive in letting him experiment and see what strategy works the best for him.
Ben’s doctors were completely blown away at his proficiency to do things even better than the ones who could see such as playing video games, football, riding bikes and scooters too. Ben was hardly scared or reluctant to try anything new and believed that one can live a quality life even without seeing.
Ben’s amazing abilities made him famous. He appeared on the front page of the Sacramento Bee Sunday paper as well as the Observer. He was also there in the People Magazine and was sent to the Sea world so that he could swim with the Dolphins. He was also invited to the Ellen show and the Oprah Winfrey’s show.
In Japan, Ben was on a talk show too. He was invited to various radio shows and spoke to people of various ages, classes and his aim was to help others in whatever way he could. The boy started working on his novel in his 4th grade and could type 60 wpm on the regular keyboard. His novel has 20 chapters and is Science Fiction. Ben also wanted to invent his own video games and was full of excellent ideas. He was teaching Japanese to himself and wanted to pursue his college in Japan. Ben has been an unusual inspiration for millions of people who have lost hope and he lived his life to the fullest by being someone he wanted to even after such obstacles.