Michael Hingson, blind since birth and raised by sighted parents who taught him a can-do attitude, lives life fully every single day. He is working hard to change the attitude of sighted people around their beliefs about what blind people can and can’t do. Blind people are not “disabled”, they are ‘people with disabilities, as every single one of us is, if we stop to think about it. We all have abilities and disabilities. Michael has his own podcast, “Unstoppable Mindset”, and is an international speaker and author. His book “Thunderdog” is the story of him and his guide dog, Roselle, escaping from the 76th floor of Tower 1 on 9/11. They had an interdependent relationship, based on trust, an ideal partnership, in other words, that got them out alive and has allowed Michael to share his story to millions around the world and now it’s coming to you here on this podcast! Enjoy and don’t forget to check out his free gift too! I thought this would be a wonderful ‘feel good’ episode to share with you during my theme of “ideal partnerships”.
Gift: www.blindedbyfear.net. On this site people can download a free eBook I have written about fear. They will be able to use this book to begin their own journey to eliminate being blinded by fear when they are confronted by something unexpected that occurs in their lives.
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About the Guest:
Michael Hingson, blind since birth, was born to sighted parents who raised him with a can-do attitude., Michael rode a bike and learned to do advanced math in his head! He moved to California and attended college receiving a master’s degree in Physics and a secondary teaching credential.
Michael worked for high-tech companies mostly in management roles until September 11, 2001, when he and his guide dog, Roselle, escaped from the 78th floor of Tower One in the WTC. They were then thrust into the international limelight where Michael began to share lessons of trust, courage, and teamwork.
Mike is the author of the #1 NY Times Bestseller: “Thunder dog” – selling over 2.5 million copies. In 2014 he published his 2nd book “Running with Roselle”, A story for our youth.
Mike has spoken to the world’s elite including George Bush, and Larry King. He has appeared on hundreds of TV and Radio programs. Now he is hired by major organizations Speaking on perseverance, the importance of Teamwork and Trust, Moving from Diversity to Inclusion, and offering Adaptive Technology Training. In addition to speaking throughout the world, Mike serves as the chief vision officer for accessiBe, an Israeli-based company that makes products to help companies make their websites accessible and inclusive for persons with disabilities.
Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfCx2L9OVN38Dv4mX6udP8g
About the Host:
Melissa is an Integrative Health Practitioner helping people get to the root cause of their health issues. Melissa neither diagnoses nor cures but helps bring your body back into balance by helping discover your “toxic load” and then removing the toxins. Melissa offers functional medicine lab testing that helps you “see inside” to know exactly what is going on, and then provides a personalized wellness protocol using natural herbs and supplements. Melissa’s business is 100% virtual – the lab tests are mailed directly to your home and she specializes in holding your hand and guiding the way to healing so that you don’t have to figure it all out on your own.
Melissa is the winner of the 2021 Quality Care Award by Business From The Heart and is also the recipient of the Alignable “Local Business Person of the Year “Award 2022 for Whistler.
Melissa has been featured at a number of Health & Wellness Summits, such as the Health, Wealth & Wisdom Summit, The Power To Profit Summit, The Feel Fan-freaking-tas-tic Summit, the Aim Higher Summit, and many more! She has also guested on over 60 different podcasts teaching people about the importance of prioritizing our health and how to get get started.
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Imagine getting up every day full of energy is if you were in your 20s. Again, what would that be? Like? What would that be worth to you? What is your health worth to you? Think about it. Your health isn't everything. But without it, everything else is nothing. And yet too many of us are taking it for granted until something goes wrong. No one wakes up hoping to be diagnosed with a disease or chronic illness. And yet, we've never been taught how to be proactive in our health through our school system, or public health. As a registered health coach and integrative health practitioner, I believe it is time this information is made available to everyone. Combining new knowledge around your health and the ability to do my functional medicine lab tests in the comfort of your own home will allow you to optimize your health for today and all your tomorrow's don't wait for your wake up call. Welcome back to another episode of The don't wait for your wake up call podcast. I am your host, Melissa Deally and I am excited to introduce you today to Michael hingson. Welcome, Michael.Michael Hingson:
Thank you. Good to be here.Melissa Deally:
I'm just going to introduce you to the audience. Michael, it has been blind since birth was born to sighted parents who raised him with a can do attitude. Michael rode a bike learn to do advanced math in his head, he moved to California and attended college receiving a master's degree in physics and a secondary teaching credential. And so much you've achieved in your life, Michael, and I really commend you and all that you've achieved that you achieved, and I love your parents can do attitude, I've read your book, Thunder dogs, so I've really got to know that and think that it's absolutely fabulous, and a testament to their parenting and who you are and what you've accomplished in your life today. And that attitude you've taken on for yourself. And so I would love to share with the audience, your story. This episode is coming out in my theme of ideal partnerships. And part of your ability to do so much has been your partnerships with the guide dogs that you've had in your life. And they're a part of that story. They are. So I would love for you to share that.Michael Hingson:
Well. So let me make it clear that it goes well beyond the guide dog. But let me talk about guide dogs what guide dogs do what they don't do. And I'm talking about the partnership because it really is a team effort is it is a partnership. Most people think that if a blind person has a guide dog, the dog knows everything the dog knows where the person wants to turn, when we're walking somewhere, the dog just knows everything. That is absolutely totally 100% Not true. The purpose of a guide dog is to make sure that I for example, walk safely from place to place is not the dogs job to know where I want to go. Nor is it the dog's job to know how to get there. And frankly, although some people rely on dogs, once they get in the habit of going to certain places, they rely on that, I don't want that. And I don't want that because it keeps me alert and more alert to know where I am in give the dog directions. That means I tell the dog when to turn left, when to turn white, when to go forward. And so on. How I do that is no different than the way you do it as a person who can see whoever you are, you use all the landmarks and all the information around you that you see to know when to do something. And so do I, I may use different techniques to get that information I listen and also tend to build up more detailed maps and knowledge of where I want to go rather than relying on signs and other things. But I still get that information and use that to know where I am and know when to make decisions about where I want to go. As I said the dogs job is to kind of be the pilot of the group and make sure that we get there safely. So if we're walking down a sidewalk and there's a tree branch hanging down for whatever reason, the dog will stop and I will check to see why the dog stopped. Now use that you do that usually by sticking out a foot or raising a hand and feeling that there's a branch there or I can even hear when there are obstacles In front of me, but I have all that information tool gathering capability within me. And I've learned to get that just like sighted people have, except, again, I use different techniques. So the bottom line is I get that information. I know I discover there's a branch, I'll kind of lift it up and go under it. And we'll go on our way. So I do the same things that sighted people do, I just use different techniques. The term disability is such a horrible term, because it implies no ability or diminished ability over everyone else. I don't have a better term. But I also don't believe that it's appropriate to say disabled people, I think it's more appropriate to say person with disabilities. And when you use that term, you think, or ought to think of everybody in the world as having a disability. And some people have heard me say, the reality is that sighted people, every single one of you has a disability just as severe as any that I may have. And that is that your light dependent, you mitigate it, because Thomas Edison came along and invented the electric light bulb, or some people say other people did. But the bottom line is the electric light bulb was invented, as a mechanism to give you the ability to see in the dark, so you're back in the 1800s, were using technology to mitigate your disability already. But don't think that that makes you superior to me, because it doesn't, it only means that you solve that problem with technology, except the fact that I get to do the same thing. And although Technology and Society has taken a long time to catch up. The fact is that in reality, there is a lot of technology and a lot of things that are available to me, to allow me to mitigate this disability that you think that I have. And one of those things is a guide dog. And the reality is that when I get a guide dog, what we really are learning to do during the training time we have with the dog at the school, although some people train their own dogs, but when I'm getting a guide dog at a school, I'm really learning to form a team, I'm creating a bond, making sure that that bond works. And then we bring the bond home. But the dog and I and we continue the relationship. And it grows to be a very close knit relationship by any standard. But it is all about a partnership, to the point where the dog knows kind of what I'm feeling. And what I want dogs are very empathetic creatures. But I also learned to do the same thing.Melissa Deally:
Very, very powerful work and a great deal of trust, a lot of trust in that relationship.Michael Hingson:
And dogs don't unconditionally trust people say dogs unconditionally love. And I think that's true and fine. But they don't unconditionally Trust, the difference between the dog and a person is that a dog tends to be more open, usually speaking, to trust, unless something has injured that dog mentally, and or physically to the point where they don't trust anymore and are very closed to the concept of trust. humans tend not to trust, we always think that everyone else has something in the hidden agenda department that that makes them want to do things for their own purposes. Dogs don't operate that way. So dogs are more open to trust, which is a very awesome capability and an awesome, awesome thing to have. And it's my job to earn their trust and their job to earn my trust. But when we develop that mutual trust, which is what you just talked about, it's a wonderful thing to behold,Melissa Deally:
I can absolutely well imagine that. And as I said, from having read your story, I really felt into that, as you described yourself, you know, getting out of the Trade Towers on the day of 911. So thank you for sharing, you know, really the biggest misconception about disabilities. And I think you're absolutely right, that every single human has some degree of disability. And so talking about people with disabilities is a better way to turn that and, you know, you've learned to use your senses in a different way because you had to compare it to people that have sight, but I love all that you've done in your life and all that you can do. And to me that's really inspiring that you haven't, you know, let yourself be held back by it. And you also made a comment that, you know, how do you define being blind I'd love to hear your perspective on that tooMichael Hingson:
well, so in one sense blindness is defined as, from a physical standpoint, not being able to see with the eyes, which is true. But blindness doesn't mean a total lack of eyesight. There is a gentleman who used to be the president of the National Federation of the Blind. He since passed away. His name is Kenneth Jernigan. He was, among other things, the director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind rehabilitation agency for many years. And then far beyond that he was the president of the National Federation of the Blind, he defined blindness as a situation where when you lose enough eyesight, that you have to use alternatives to full eyesight, to be able to accomplish tasks, you're blind. So if you have to start using large print, or closed circuit, television, magnifiers, or other kinds of things to read, if you have to wear really thick glasses, and still may not see as well as you were able to, when you had full eyesight, and you're walking down the street, you're blind. And the reason he uses that definition is that most of the time when people start to lose eyesight, eventually, they will probably lose it all. And so in the rehabilitation sense, if a person goes to an agency to get assistance and learning how to cope with some eyesight loss, for example, do you just want to learn how to cope with that eyesight loss, and pretend that you're still not blind at all, and then maybe in three or four or five years, have to come back because you lost the rest of your eyesight? And you now have to learn how to function at all without eyesight? Or would it be better if you learn all the appropriate techniques up front, and then you use your eyesight while you can, along with other techniques in order to live a more meaningful life example. I know a person who lives in New Jersey, right across the river from Philadelphia, and who would go into Pennsylvania every day to go to work. He started losing his eyesight. And he went to the New Jersey Commission for the Blind, and they gave him a cane and they talked about eyesight and losing it. And they talked about blindness a little bit, but they didn't really train him a lot on why it was important for him to use his cane even though he still had eyesight. Well, one day, he was walking along the train tracks to get onto the subway, or excuse me, not the subway, but the New Jersey Transit train, that would take him across the river into Philadelphia. And so he was walking along, it was not a very bright morning, he got to the entrance to the train, turns to go into the train and promptly fell between two train cars. Because his eyesight wasn't good enough to distinguish the fact that he wasn't at the entrance. He was at the coupling between cars, right. And apparently the train started to move, but they got stopped and they got him out. And he went into the train car at the appropriate place. And by the way, he had a cane, but he wasn't using it, which was the problem. He will tell you to this day, that convinced him as to why even though he still had eyesight, he needed to learn the appropriate techniques that that fully blind people use because they will augment his eyesight, right. And he recognized that in reality, using the Jernigan definition, he was blind, right? Blindness doesn't mean a total lack of eyesight, blindness doesn't mean you're less capable. It's all about attitudes. It's all about what you choose to learn.Melissa Deally:
And I really liked that notion of, you know, if you're losing your eyesight to start adding in the tools, before you've completely lost it, so that you know if and when you do completely lose your vision, you're already practiced at using those tools, and the transition is easier. So it's a place of denial, to instead choose to build your toolbox.Michael Hingson:
More important you are psychologically more adjusted to the fact that eyesight isn't the only game in town. And make no mistake if a person becomes nearsighted for example, and starts to use glasses to correct that nearsightedness that doesn't mean that they're a blind person, if that corrects your vision to 2020 or something very close to that. That's pretty cool. Pretty cool, and that's great. But the Reality I would also submit is that there are technologies and a lot of things that blind people can and do use, that every sighted person could use more of every iPhone, for example, automatically has within it, accessibility tools for blind persons and other kinds of persons with disabilities, including making the iPhone talk, and, and so on. More people could use some of those tools to accomplish some tasks more efficiently without having to look at the iPhone screen, if they started just using the voiceover feature in the iPhone. There, there are just a lot of ways that the skills that blind people learn might very well augment the lives of other people and save their need to use their eyes for more relevant things than things that they can care from an audio standpoint.Melissa Deally:
That's a really interesting point and something that I hadn't thought about. So I will have to check those out myself as well, you know, I use I don't use Siri very often. But I know a lot of people instead of, you know, typing messages will use the voice recording, et cetera, et cetera.Michael Hingson:
There is that but the other side of it is what I'm thinking more of. And that is voiceover, which is a tool that allows me as a user of an iPhone to hear whatever comes along, and comes across the screen. So when you're driving in a car, if if voiceover were activated, and you receive a phone call, you don't have to look at the screen to hear the caller ID it will verbalize it. Why wouldn't everyone do that?Unknown:
Yeah, it's a safety feature.Michael Hingson:
It's a safety feature. Yeah. So it's already in your iPhone.Melissa Deally:
Oh, I didn't even know that. So if I were just to go to my settings, is it called VoiceOver and IMichael Hingson:
turn it on, go to your settings, and you go to accessibility? Yeah. And, and then you'll see vision impairments. Now, the one thing I would caution you is that it does change, because it's intended to be used by people who happen to be blind. You it will change the gestures. And there is a training part of that that will teach you the gesture. So for example, when you are moving across a screen and you tap something to execute an app, I have to as I move across and fight it, double tap it. Because the first app highlights it, and the second one actually executes it. So there are some changes in the gestures. But so what if it makes you more efficient, if it makes you more safe? If it gives you more tools to use? Why wouldn't you want to learn the gestures? They're not that complicated?Melissa Deally:
Yeah, I'm very interested in thank you for sharing that. Because I'm sure I'm not the only one that hasn't heard of this before. And all of us can look into these additional features that, as you say, might make our lives easier and definitely safer, especially for driving and having the voiceover just read information out to us so that if youMichael Hingson:
also invoke the features, there is a setting that you can invoke so that you can very quickly turn it off and turn it on. So you don't have to go back into settings every time to do it. There's just a lot of neat little features like that, that that Apple put in. They did it because they had to they were going to be sued if they didn't make their products accessible. And it's unfortunate that it came to that. But the bottom line is that Apple did a great job. The Android phones have a lot of the same features in them as well.Melissa Deally:
That's fabulous, really good to know. So yeah, thank you for sharing all of that. Another question that I have for you, before we dive into your story is, why do you say that people need to learn the realities of what it means to be blind? I think we've kind of touched on it. But like we dive into that a little more,Michael Hingson:
we have Well, the fact is blindness is the problem. It's our societal attitudes about blindness. It's the limitations that we as a society put on people who are different than we are and the attitudes that they're less than we are because they can't see and we can I was at a at a department store. Actually, I was at an IKEA store in 2013. And a young man came up to me, he said I'm sorry. And I said, Why are you sorry? And he said, I'm sorry, because you can't see. And that says it all right there. What I said to him was, well, I'm sorry that you can because you're missing out on a lot of things that might be available to you and then we weren't able to continue the discussion because his mother came and dragged him away. But, but the reality is that attitude is very prevalent. It is why we have an unemployment rate among employable blind people of close to 70% in society today. It's part of the reason that only 2% of all internet websites are accessible today and are usable by people who happen to be blind or happen to have other disabilities. society tends to write us off rather than recognizing that we're just as valuable contributors, as everyone else's, who happens to be able to see and hear and walk and so on.Melissa Deally:
Very true. And I completely agree with you. And I love what you do. And I love that you're speaking about this, because it really is just bringing it to the forefront. And, again, I think it's one of those things where it's just the masses forget about the minority, right, and everything's created for the masses, and the minority gets left behind. And this is an example of that. Whereas when you talk about it, and you bring it out into the open, it makes people realize that you can do everything that I can do, you might not do it exactly the same way. But you can do it. Therefore, you are eminently employable as I am, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.Michael Hingson:
I urge people to visit the website, www dot blind driver challenge.org, blind driver challenge.org. On that website, you will see a gentleman drive a Ford Escape around the Daytona Speedway through obstacle courses and other things. Right before the 2011 Rolex 24 race. Why do I bring that up? Because of when I ask people what they think blind people can't do? Primarily, the first answer is drive a car. Mark Riccobono, who drove that vehicle didn't have people directing him didn't have anything other than some technology that had been developed, that gave him the same information that you get, as a sighted driver, whoever you are, to be able to drive that same obstacle course. So can blind people drive cars? Sure. Now, I admit that it will be great when autonomous vehicles come along. Because they will make it more effective for all of us, and frankly, the way blind or excuse me, the way most people drive around the world today, it's time that we take the driving out of the hands of drivers and put it in the town's autonomous vehicles. But they're not ready for primetime totally yet, either. But that day is coming. Yeah. And when it does, it means that I can not only buy a car, which I do now with my wife, who happens to be in a wheelchair and is the driver of the family. But I'll be able to just take the car and go somewhere. The technology that Mark used in that vehicle is not ready for primetime, and it's not been street approved, approve, but he has driven the vehicle many times and, and has driven it on city streets. And there's no reason that that isn't possible.Melissa Deally:
And I totally agree with you. And there's another aspect that I've been aware of in it. I'm in Whistler BC, as many people know. And we had the 2010 Olympics here, and the 2010 para Olympics, and I was able to go to one of the Paralympic downhill skiing events. And that event was an event of blind skiers. And that was very eye opening to me as well, because I was watching these blind skier ski down the mountain. And yes, they had a guide. So not technology, a human guide, directing them down the course but similar to technology directing a driver around a racetrack and the obstacles. And I was so impressed because these skiers were skiing way faster than I ever ski as a sighted person down that same run. And it really does go to show that blind people can do everything. It's just what are the tools, the resources, etc, that allow them to do that, and it may be done differently.Michael Hingson:
See, I'm a firm believer that I've never skied and and haven't really wanted to, but it might be kind of fun to do. But I'm a firm believer that what really goes on those downhill slopes. If somebody isn't watching the trees, jump out and grab you. And so the reason that guide was there was really to monitor the trees and not worry so much about the blind skiers were very capable trees off the course, trees off the course because they jump out if they could, if they have senses of humor. No, I hear what you're saying. And the fact is that the guides do help they don't interfere with this game. They don't make you go faster or slower. It still is up to you and your capabilities as a blind skier, whoever you are, but the guide does give you information that isn't as readily available in other ways. Now technology is improving and other kinds of technologies will be coming Long that will permit skiers to do that without any sighted guide person helping them. But that's still a way in the future. Again, the technology might be further along if society took more of an interest earlier in making sure that blind people had access to that information, both to travel and to ski, for example, can blind people play tennis? Yeah, I don't. But again, I think that over time, more technology will come along that will help us do that. Now, some people might say, well, but as a sighted person, I don't need that technology. And that makes me better than you know, it doesn't. Let's talk about all the things that you need in the way of technology. And I start with the electric lights, right. The fact of the matter is, we all use technology, we all use tools that humanity has developed. Make no mistake about it, it doesn't matter whether it's tools that allow me as a blind person to do the same things that you do, although in a different way, or you use the tools to turn on the lights, or whatever the case happens to be. It doesn't matter. The fact is, we all use tools. And we all use those tools to help us function better, no matter what we do. So it's okay.Melissa Deally:
If you're enjoying my content, and someone that wants to step into being proactive in your health and learning more, I would love to invite you to join my membership community. There's a link in the show notes for only 1999 a month, you get access to all of my content. And there's a lot as well as weekly calls that you can come and get your health questions answered.Unknown:
It's truly priceless. I'd love to see you join the community, check out the link in the show notes.Melissa Deally:
It's absolutely okay. And very true. And I'm going to share a little bit of my story here, because you mentioned tennis, and I'm actually one ICT, which means I only ever use one eye at a time. Which means my peripheral vision is act is actually okay. But my focus vision, so I'm a very slow reader. And I didn't actually learn this until I was an adult. So I had a lazy left eye as a child and I was patched andMichael Hingson:
a pirate, a pirate? Yes,Melissa Deally:
when I was like under five, and I've worn glasses or contacts all of my life. But when I was about 23, I was sent to an ophthalmologist who did some eye tests on me and said, you know, you're one night, how do you drive? And I'm like, I don't know, I just dropped.Unknown:
I learned to drive one I didn't know I was one I'd and I didn't know it was a problem. And he's like,Melissa Deally:
how do you park and I'm like, Oh, well, that's really interesting, because I do Park. But my husband always tells me that I've got way more room than I think I have. So I guess I err on the side of caution, which is a good thing. And I'm not going around ramming other people's cars. But I just adapted not even knowing that I was one eyed or that it was any different to anyone else. I knew I had a lazy left eye. But it wasn't until I saw this doctor that he said your eyes actually work independently of each other. So my depth perception is very, very poor. Now, I learned that the hard way without knowing it, though, as a child, because my mother put me in tennis lessons. I couldn't see the ball, I would get hit by the ball all the time. So I hated tennis lessons. And I quit. And again didn't know that it was because of my poor depth perception and being one eyed. But you know, to your point of technology that's coming that could you know, maybe that's something of interest to me too. And I'm a sighted person, but I still am a person with a disability.Michael Hingson:
You are and and that's okay. And the fact is I think over time, there are a lot of things that will improve our opportunities to do things and there may be something that will come along that will deal with your other I mean, who knows. One of the things that's most unfortunate you brought to mind is that the problem with the optimum illogical profession is they feel if they can't help your eyes. If they can't make you see better, they failed. And that is ingrained into them in school. I've seen it happen so many times where someone says well, you're losing your eyesight, there's nothing I can do and literally will leave the room and leave you stranded rather than saying, but you know what, you can still live as meaningful and as relevant and as full and productive life as anyone else. You may not do it exactly the same way. And I'm not the best expert to help you with that but Here are some ways that you can get information. But, you know, you're not a failure just because you can't see. And there's no reason that the Optima logical world should treat us that way. But they do.Melissa Deally:
Yeah, I wasn't aware of that. And you're right, there's absolutely no reason why they should be treating you that way.Michael Hingson:
So I went, I went to an ophthalmologist once because I tend to have bouts of glaucoma. So pressure grows incredibly in the eye. And I wanted this after my ologists. And I wanted him to diagnose why that was happening. The most I could ever ever get out of him was your eyes are mad at you. That's no answer. And that's an insulting answer to anyone intelligent at all. Your eyes are mad at you. And I said, I have a master's degree in physics. I can talk to you about optics all day, in physical ways that maybe you wouldn't even understand. Don't tell me, my eyes are mad at me. But that's all he would ever say. And I said, Well, great. Don't think you're getting paid for this examination. You didn't tell me anything. And we didn't pay him. And there was no reason for him to be that way. But unfortunately, all too often. That is what we find in the eye care industry that if we can't make you see better than we failed. Blindness isn't the problem. It is our attitudes about blindness, that tend to be the difficulty.Melissa Deally:
So true, we create the fear. Blindness isn't the problem. It's the attitudes that create the fear. So on that note, I want to lead into the the term of blinded by fear. What do you mean by that?Michael Hingson:
Well, so let me go back to the World Trade Center. I was hired in 1999, to be the Mid Atlantic region, regional sales manager for a fortune 500 company. And I looked for office space. We were living in New Jersey, I had been transferred back there by another company, we lived in New Jersey, and I worked in New York. And we found office space on the seventh eighth floor of Tower, one of the World Trade Center. And we found it because there had been a bombing in the parking lot under the World Trade Center in 1993. And the occupancy rate was still only about 80%. So we got a great rate and a rented space there, opened an office. But as the Mid Atlantic region sales manager, or better yet to say, as the leader of that office, the person who would be directing the operations of the office, I knew that it was important for me to know all I could about the World Trade Center. For example, if we were going to have customers come in, and we're going to give them a demonstration of some of our products. And maybe that live would lead to a discussion about them buying the products. And now it all went on long enough that we had to go to lunch. Any self respecting person would say let's go to lunch, and where do you want to go? What kind of food do you want, I can get us there and, and go off and do it, I had to be able to do that as well as anyone else. The difference is, I needed to know where things were. So I spent a lot of time walking around the World Trade Center. Once that office opened, or once I knew it was going to open. And I learned everything I could about the World Trade Center, I also spend time learning about what to do. In the case of an emergency what the emergency evacuation procedures were, where the emergency exits were, when I would use what exit as opposed to another exit based on whatever the conditions were and so on. For me, it was important to know that stuff because I knew that my employees weren't going to spend a lot of time or want to spend a lot of time learning that stuff. Because they could just see the signs right. And then they could just go to the emergency exit. And now that works until the building is smoke filled or something like that. Well, the smoke filled part did not happen for us on September 11. But it didn't change the premise under which I was operating, which was I needed to know all of that. Right? Well, I didn't realize until many years later that what I was actually doing was developing a mindset that said I knew what to do in the case of an emergency. I knew what to do and didn't need to be afraid. And literally for day for most of the year, every time I went into the World Trade Center I would think to myself something else I need to learn today anything that I don't know any other questions that come up based on everything that I've heard. Then I interacted with the fire prevention people the fire, all the fire people the Port Authority police, the Port Authority people, I learned everything that I needed to know. Well on September 11 at 845 in the morning in 2001 Everything changed the airplane struck the building. And the building literally tipped. Because tall buildings like that are tall springs, they're made to buffet and wind storms and so on. And literally our building started tipping over. But the springing action was stronger than the force that was pushing the building. That is the airplane striking it. And so the building actually eventually came back to a vertical position. We didn't know what went on. We were 18 floors below where the airplane struck, and on the other side of the building, so there was as much stuff between us and where the explosion and the airplane crash took place as there possibly could be. So we didn't even hear a loud explosion, we heard kind of a muffled thump, if you will, the building shuttered and then it tipped. People even now say Well, of course you didn't know what happened because you couldn't see it. And as I point out to them, last time I checked Superman and X ray vision were not real things. No one knew what went on my side of the building. Right? It had nothing to do with being blindness. Don't put me in that kind of category. No one knew proof of that. Well, the first thing that that happened is that a colleague saw a fire and smoke above us and thought inside of the building was on fire. And the because the airplane struck the building went to the center part of the tower, which is hollow anyway. And all the paper and the stuff that was loose, was being sucked out and went and started falling and fell past our windows. And so David, my colleagues had their millions of pieces of burning paper falling outside the window and things like that. And it took a while to get David to focusMichael Hingson:
and not to panic. And one of the things that gave me information about the mental state that I needed to have was that after the plane did what it did, and the building stopped chipping, and came back to a vertical position. Roselle, my guide dog came out from under my desk, I took her leash, I told her to heal, she came around on my left side and sat and was yawning and wagging her tail and kind of going, who woke me up. And never once indicated that she was afraid of anything that was going on. She clearly wasn't sensing anything that caused her fear. And I knew what Roselle was like when she was afraid because thunderstorms scared her. But nothing was going on that day. That gave her a sense of fear, which told me whatever was going on wasn't such an imminent issue for us, that we couldn't evacuate in an orderly way. And all the knowledge that I had learned, kicked in a mindset that says, you can do what you need to do, deal with the situation, and stay calm. Because you know what to do. The knowledge gave me that mindset. Rather than me being overwhelmed by fear and panicking, like David did until I got him to focus and so on. I wasn't afraid, I was worried. I guess I could say I was afraid I didn't know that was going to happen to the building. But I also knew that I had no control over that. And I could separate that. And that's what I mean by blinded by fear. I wasn't blinded by fear. I wasn't in a situation where fear overwhelmed me, I had learned that. And I didn't even know that I was learning it necessarily until it all kicked in. But during the years of COVID, I realized that I've talked about that a lot, but never did anything to teach others how to deal with fear, and how to develop a better mindset. And so as a result, I started to create a program called blinded by fear. And we actually created a website blinded by fear dotnet. And then things happen to change. spending more time on the course I was actually hired by a company called accessibility to be their chief vision officer to help with messaging and to help with the company making websites more accessible for persons with disabilities access to be as ACCE SSI, B e.com. And the reason that's important is because only 2% of all websites, roughly speaking, are accessible today. And so it was exciting to become part of that. And so while blinded by fear, in a sense, took a backseat. We are actually starting to write a book about it now. And so that will be coming out sometime in the future.Melissa Deally:
Well, thank you for sharing all of that. And that mindset piece is so important because you were prepared. You might have had some fear but it didn't become overwhelming. It didn't completely blind you andMichael Hingson:
I focused it,Melissa Deally:
you focused it and as opposed to your partner David who will was blinded by fear and couldn't focus until you got him to focus. And that's what so often happens when we get into that state of overwhelm, right? We can't focus. And so you were really the one. Trusting in Roselle and what her signals were, that you didn't need to be imminently worried you knew you had all of the preparation that you've done, and that you could now calmly evacuate the building.Michael Hingson:
But here's the other part about that. Speaking of Rozelle So, yes, Roselle gave me signals that helped, but going all the way down the stairs. Clearly, Roselle had to sense all the fear and concern that were going what's going on around her. So it was also important for me as we traveled down the stairs to encourage her by saying things like good girl, Rosa, what a good dog keep going, good dog. And almost as a constant effort going down the stairs, praising her encouraging her, which by the way, helped other people because a lot of people followed us because clearly I was calm, and Roselle was behaving. But we always feed off each other me and whatever guide dog I'm using. And so it's important for me. And it wasn't important for me in that situation to say, Don't worry, Roselle, I'm not going to be afraid I'm here with you. And likewise, she just continued to do her job, which essentially was saying, Hey, I'm not seeing any problem here, we're just gonna go down the stairs, it's a mutually beneficial relationship. It's an interdependent relationship is maybe a good way to put it. That's the ideal relationship that we need to have and that we had that day.Melissa Deally:
And it's because of that interdependency. And the fact that you'd worked together for a few years, you really had built that deep, deep trust, that you were able to get out successfully and survive, even though you still had to walk for several more hours after that. And there's, you know, a lot more to the story of survival that day, but it really comes down to that trust that you and Roselle had in you knowing that you needed to support her and ensure she didn't feed off the fear of everyone else, but that she was supporting you and doing her job.Michael Hingson:
Right? Because if she were afraid she'd be looking back at me. Are you okay? And I could tell if she were doing that. And that would cause her concern. Is everything. Okay? Do I need to be worried? And it's up to me to say, No, you're doing a good job? Could something have happened to change all that? Yeah, the building could have come down on us, right? We didn't have control over that. And it was important for me, to not allow my mind to go somewhere to deal with things over which I had no control. And that's the difference also between us and dogs. Because the next day I contacted the school where Roselle was from and talk to people about what Roselle might do or think and so on. I thought I knew the answer. But it was good to hear it from the veterinarians, somewhat, because someone had asked me, well, you know, is she going to be affected by all of this? And when I call guide dogs, they said, Well, did was any did anything hit her or affect her directly? And I said, No. And then they said, well, it's over for her and which it was, dogs don't do what is, you know, so she's not going to sit there. What if that building had fallen on us? Right? Once it was over? It was over. And as soon as we got home that night, she went and grabbed her favorite toy and started playing tug of war with my retired guide dog Linney, and was over for her. Good lesson for for all of us, you know?Melissa Deally:
Absolutely. That we need to let things be over to and get out of the what if state, but I know that you have a podcast now yourself as well. And I'd love you to share the name of your podcast, because that all ties into this whole conversation and the mindset that you that you know, created and built for yourself through all ofMichael Hingson:
Sure. So one of the things that that I was asked to think about doing when I joined excessively was to start a podcast. And the idea was to start a general sort of podcast where people could come and tell their own stories of how they dealt with challenges and so on, sort of, in a sense, created by the whole concept of blinded by fear. And so we started the podcast last September, it's called unstoppable mindset where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. We do have people on talking about disabilities from time to time, we we talk about issues that they have faced and overcome. But mostly it's an opportunity for people who have their own stories about overcoming challenges, whatever they are, to come in and talk about them and how they dealt with them and how their lives have changed or improved or whatever. So we've had now 38 shows the 38th show went up, actually just today. And they come up right now once a week. And so, we, we have a lot of fun with them. And I get to ask people about their stories just as you've done here. And we then put those episodes up. Because what we want other people to learn is, you can be more unstoppable than you think you can, you can deal with things, the world doesn't need to just crush you, you can move forward, even when you think you can't.Melissa Deally:
I love that. And that, that all comes down to mindset, right? And does such such an important topic. And, you know, kudos to you and your mindset, and, you know, to your parents for instilling in you that can do attitude, which is a mindset of its very own right from the outset. So I love all of that. And as we wrap up here, I would love to ask you what is don't wait for your wake up call mean to you.Michael Hingson:
So for me, it was an accident. Of course, in a sense, well, not so much an accident, but we shouldn't have a wake up call, for example, that says you can you can be more unstoppable with than you are, that we shouldn't wait for a wake up call that says we can't be better than we are something happens to us that makes us think about these things. We need to be more strategic in our own lives. One of the things that we're talking about in the new book that we're working on is we need to be more introspective as people, at the end of the day, be a little mindful, go back and think about what happened in the day, don't beat yourself up if you made some sort of mistake, or you realize that something didn't go as you intended it to go. Rather, instead, ask yourself, How do I make it better for next time? Mistakes happen, things that we don't anticipate happen. The question is, what do we learn from them? Do we need to wait until it happens a whole bunch of times before we decide maybe we have to deal with it? Or do we think about it even the first time it happens? And then go, how can I improve for the next time and get ourselves into the habit of learning from what happens around us? And also even the things that went well? How can I make it better next time. So there's nothing wrong with In fact, it's absolutely, I think important for each of us to take time at the end of the day to be mindful just to sit down or while you're lying in bed waiting to fall asleep. And be retrospective about the day that just ended? And what do I learn from everything that happened to me that day? And maybe wake up in the morning and think about what's going to happen today? And how can I make it better than yesterday? If you're a religious person and read the Bible, for example, Jesus tells us always about going into our own closet praying to God, same concept. You don't talk to God, you talk with God, if you really think about it, it's the same thing you should meditate. And ponder about what you need to do differently better or how your your world is going and how can you improve it? The answers will come to you if you're open to them. And I think that's the most important thing that I can think of about what what about your wake up call because there's no sense to wait for the wake up call. Actually, September 11, a wake up call for a lot of people it was was it for me. Sure, by any standard, it coalesce thoughts that were in my mind. But by the same token, I had made preparations that in reality kicked in. And suddenly I was able to do the things that I needed to do. So the fact is that I would like to think that if we are really dealing with our worlds correctly, what we can do is make up make wakeup calls, acknowledgement verification calls. Because we're already doing a lot of the stuff we shouldn't have to wait till we're beating over the head with something to deal with it.Melissa Deally:
I agree 100%. And that just comes with, as you say, with slowing down, tuning in, and creating that awareness with ourselves,Michael Hingson:
which we can always make the time to do that people who say well, I don't have time to do that. Balderdash. You make the time to do it because it is more meaningful for you to do that than notMelissa Deally:
100% I fully agree. So if people want to get hold of you, I know you've mentioned a couple of I'd say it's already but what's the best way for people to get ahold of you if they want to learn more about accessibility or your podcast?Michael Hingson:
If people want to reach out to me a couple of different ways, you're always welcome to email me at Michael Hai, MI, CH AE L H AI, at excessive be ACCE SSI, B e.com. You can learn about me and accessibly by going to access a b.com. And you can if you've got a website, you can even run an a smallUnknown:
Are you there? Yes.Michael Hingson:
Oh, wait for a second, you can always run a small application on the website called ACE, where you can plug in your website. And it will tell you how accessible your site is. But people can learn about me and reach me there. You can also go to our podcast page, which is Michael hinkson.com/podcast, mi ch AE L H ing s o n.com. Or you can just go to Michael henson.com. And learn about us there and go to the podcast page by page by going to the regular website. But Michael hanson.com, or Michael hinkson.com/podcast People are welcome to go there as well. We'd love to chat with anyone. You mentioned our books underdog. And I certainly hope people will go buy it wherever books are sold, it is out there in the world. And also, if you haven't been able to sort of gather it, I do tend to talk about a lot of the things we've talked about here and other things a lot. I've been a speaker ever since September 11. Soon after that day, when the media got our story, people started contacting me and saying, you know, would you come and we want to hire you to come and tell your story and talk to us about lessons that we should learn about teamwork and trust, and moving forward. And now of course, we bring in things like blinded by fear. And I say it sort of jokingly but having been involved in computer sales up until that point, it was a whole lot more fun to allow myself to be hired just to come and talk to people and talk with people and trying to sell computers. So I've been a public speaker now since well, first speech was in in near the end of September of of 2001. So I've been a public speaker for now 20, and almost another year, almost 21 years. So if people are looking for a speaker would love to talk with you about that as well.Melissa Deally:
That's fabulous. And on top of all of that you're also offering the audience a gift.Michael Hingson:
If people visit WWW dot blinded by fear.net. And register, which is no cost, you will also be able to receive at no cost. A book that an e book that I published, which is going to start to form the basis of the new book that that we're writing. And that book is called blinded by fear. So everyone is welcome to go to blinded by fear dotnet. And you can download the book and read a lot about what will be in all the lessons about fear and controlling fear.Melissa Deally:
And thank you so much for offering that because I think that you know that there's probably every single person could get at least one takeaway from that book, even if they don't feel that they're blinded by fear that fear does creep into our lives. And so reading that book will be super helpful to everyone. And I do recommend thunder dog to everyone as well. It's a super fun, easy read and a beautiful story of your whole life. Inter woven with you getting out of Tower One on September 11 With the help of Roselle, and just a really heartwarming story that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. So I do recommend that to the audience. And then just before I let you go, any last words that you would like to share with the audience?Michael Hingson:
Well, thank you. I think you're absolutely right that the story is an easy one to read. We wanted to educate people about blindness, we wanted it to be a book that was something that everyone would be interested in. And we've gotten wonderful comments about it. It has been a number one New York Times bestselling book. But in ending this, I would tell people you can learn not to be blinded by fear you can learn to deal with whatever comes along in your life. And if there's one lesson and it's the lesson that we talked about in Thunder dog, if there's one lesson to learn, and to keep yourself from going more insane, especially as our world gets crazier, don't worry about what you can't control focus on the things you can and let the rest alone. You're not going to change them. You have no control over them. But there are things that you do have control over and most of it is even if you have some parts of your life that you don't have control over You do have control over how you deal with them. So we didn't have control over September 11 happening. But we do have and I had control over how I chose mentally if nothing else to deal with it. We all have more control than we think we do. Which makes us of course, more unstoppable than we thought.