2 minute read

The World in Darkness

Using Sound To See The World

When Stevie was seven years old, a doctor explained his blindness to him. Up until that time, Stevie thought that other people banged into furniture less than he did because they were older. They knew where tables and furniture were placed, and he needed to learn this, too. Stevie was wrong, of course. He soon realized that he would always need to be careful about how and where he walked.

Fun Fact!

When Stevie was two years old, his favorite instrument was the spoons. He used to hold the spoons and hit them against his leg. He began to use the spoons as drumsticks, and went around the house hitting everything.

Stevie understood sound much better by this time. He used sound to help him do things. He taught himself how sound could tell him where objects were and how far away he was from these objects. This method is called sonar. Stevie would call out and listen for an echo. The echo from his voice bounced off a nearby object. Stevie knew how far away an object was by the sound of the echo. Everyone has this ability, but sighted people don't need to use it. Blind people, however, train themselves to use their sonar. All blind children develop this sense between the ages of one and three.

Using sound and touch, Stevie now easily moved around the house. He began to play outside with his brothers. Calvin and Milton knew that Stevie could not see with his eyes like they could. Stevie, however, used his hands and the sounds coming to him from all around to move about freely. Stevie began to climb trees and ride a bicycle (with someone holding the handlebars to steer). Like any child, Stevie took chances. His blindness did little to hold him back from playing with his brothers and friends. Their favorite game was to jump from one woodshed roof to another. Calvin and Milton judged the distance by sight, of course. Stevie crouched at the edge of one roof and called out. His voice sounded different depending on how far away the next roof was.

“I know it used to worry my mother,” Stevie remembered of his childhood games, “and I know she prayed for me to have sight someday, and so finally I just told her that I was happy being blind, and I thought it was a gift from God, and I think she felt better after that.”

Additional topics

Musician BiographiesStevie WonderThe World in Darkness - Miracle Baby, His Own Way Of Seeing, Detroit And Change, Using Sound To See The World