Target Shooting for the Blind
James Miekka of Surry is a target shooter with an accuracy most people would admire. He’s also completely blind. His accuracy comes from his ingenuity.”My favorite thing is when I see somebody who’s never seen him shoot before. And if they watch him shoot, their jaw just drops open. And they go, ‘How does he do that?’” says Miekka’s neighbor, Robert Duhaime.Miekka can’t see his target…he hears it, using an artificial vision system he designed himself.”It requires an extreme amount of concentration,” Miekka says.He shoots using instruments to do the same job as the eyes of sighted people, changing light into electric signals.”So, I’ve taken the light I’ve converted to electricity, and then it travels down the cord which is the equivalent of your optic nerve. Finally, I have to take that signal and put it in a way my brain can decode it,” Miekka says.For that, he uses sound. The sound frequency is proportional to the light intensity on the target.”I hear tick, tick, tick and I scan around for black next to white, and very quiet next to very loud. That white on that target should be the loudest thing out there,” he says.Neighbor Rick Zeamer helped Miekka, a former physics teacher, research the special photocells at the heart of the system, and calibrate the scope for his backyard shooting range.”I think it’s just the beginning of what could be a rather important technological development for artificial vision,” Zeamer says. Neighbor Robert Duhaime says Miekka’s accuracy is better than most people who can see.”It’s a passion that he’s had for such a long time. And he refuses to let anything stop him,” Duhaime says.”It gives me a great deal of pleasure to be able to be a completely blind person participating in a sighted sport. And usually, when people come out and shoot, they can’t beat me,” he says, with a smile.