The Blind Boy Who Learned How to See

Although Ben Underwood was blind for most of his life, he did not let that stop him from seeing.

Oct 12, 2018

At the age of two, Ben was diagnosed with retinoblastoma- cancer in both of his eyes. At three years old, when radiation and chemotherapy proved unsuccessful, Ben underwent surgery to have his eyes removed. However, he refused to let this reality change his life. He was an optimistic and happy child, and he intended to stay that way.

At the age of 7, while at summer camp, he discovered his unique gift. Ben realized that by clicking his tongue, he was able to identify the objects surrounding him.

“By clicking my tongue on the top of my mouth... it makes a sound, and I hear things around me,” he explained. “I can find people, poles, pillars, walls, openings and doorways, drops on the floor, the curbs on the sidewalk — any object that it comes in contact with.”

Ben was using echolocation to see.

Although in 2009 Ben passed away when his cancer came back, he lived seventeen happy years as a normal kid. Once he discovered his gift of echolocation, Ben was able to do all the things a teenager loves to do. He rode his bike, played basketball with his friends, fought with his siblings, and could even play video games.

His mother didn’t let his blindness stop him from giving him chores, either. “Why should he get a break?” his mother Aquanetta Gordon with a laugh.

“Nobody is going to tell him that there is an impossibility for him because there are none.”

Both Ben’s and his mother’s spirit are simply inspirational. Even when Ben learned that his time to live was limited, he refused to pity himself.

In an interview with Oprah, Aquanette said “That’s how he handled death. He didn’t just die. He put it on and wore it and taught me how to do it.”

Aquanette said that she doesn’t view the passing of her son with sadness. “It wasn’t a sad thing… there was so much love and so much joy [at his funeral] that to this day, I’m even still joyful about it.”

Ben and Aquanette’s story can inspire all of us to live life fully, and that the ability to overcome life’s hurdles may be easier than we think.

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HILLA BENZAKEN, CONTRIBUTOR
Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.

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