Episode 17 – A Person of Many Talents with Dr. Hoby Wedler
Dr. Hoby Wedler has been blind since birth and, as you will hear in this episode, is definitely unstoppable. He is a scientist, an entrepreneur, a sensory expert, and is driven by his passion for innovative, creative, and insightful thinking. In 2016, Hoby earned his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from UC Davis. In the same year, he began opening doors to the world of wine aromas by developing Tasting in the Dark, a truly blindfolded wine experience, in collaboration with the Francis Ford Coppola Winery.
Hoby has just launched his own line of spices and other tasty products. He is also a recognized public speaker.
Among other positions, Hoby serves as the board chair for the Earle Baum Center of the Blind in Santa Rosa California. Now, come hear this inspiring and unstoppable person in action.
Some directories do not show full show notes. For the complete transcription please visit https://michaelhingson.com/podcast
About Our Guest:
Dr. Hoby Wedler is an insightful, disarming, and passionate thinker who loves to bring people together to help them see new possibilities. With the heart of a teacher, Hoby helps turn your dreams into realities. Hoby has been completely blind since birth. He is a scientist, an entrepreneur, a sensory expert, and is driven by his passion for innovative, creative, and insightful thinking. Hoby is remarkably tuned into his surroundings and has frequently chosen to walk the unbeaten paths in life over known territories. In 2016, Hoby earned his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from UC Davis. His fearlessness is infectious, and he has actively paved the way for others to join him in his quest to follow passions regardless of the challenges that lie ahead.
In 2011, Hoby founded a non-profit organization to lead annual chemistry camps for blind and visually impaired students throughout North America. In the same year, he began opening doors to the world of wine aromas by developing Tasting in the Dark, a truly blindfolded wine experience, in collaboration with the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. He has since expanded the program to a global market in a variety of industries and special projects. Over the years, Hoby has become a motivational speaker, a mentor, and an educator. He is also committed to making the world an inclusive, equitable, and accessible place for everyone.
In his work, you will find a unique trilogy between sensory awareness, scientific knowledge, and a love for sharing his insights.
Numerous people and organizations have recognized Hoby’s work over the years. To name a few, President Barack Obama recognized Hoby by naming him a Champion of Change for enhancing employment and education opportunities for people with disabilities. Also, Forbes Media named Hoby as a leader in food and drink in their 30 under 30 annual publication. Hoby’s dedicated to impacting everyone he works with by unlocking doors, overcoming challenges, increasing awareness, and expanding their horizons.
About the Host:
Michael Hingson is a New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, and Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. Michael, blind since birth, survived the 9/11 attacks with the help of his guide dog Roselle. This story is the subject of his best-selling book, Thunder Dog.
Michael gives over 100 presentations around the world each year speaking to influential groups such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Federal Express, Scripps College, Rutgers University, Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross just to name a few. He is Ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind and also serves as Ambassador for the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.
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Michael Hingson 00:00
Access Cast and accessiBe Initiative presents Unstoppable Mindset. The podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Hi, I’m Michael Hingson, Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe and the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust. Thanks for joining me on my podcast as we explore our own blinding fears of inclusion unacceptance and our resistance to change. We will discover the idea that no matter the situation, or the people we encounter, our own fears, and prejudices often are our strongest barriers to moving forward. The unstoppable mindset podcast is sponsored by accessiBe, that’s a c c e s s i capital B e. Visit www.accessibe.com to learn how you can make your website accessible for persons with disabilities. And to help make the internet fully inclusive by the year 2025. Glad you dropped by we’re happy to meet you and to have you here with us.
Michael Hingson 01:23
Welcome to another episode of unstoppable mindset. Today, we have really fascinating guests. He comes from the scientific community, as an essence, have I as you all know, because of my getting a master’s degree in physics and being involved in various scientific endeavors, and our guest today Hobi Wendler comes from a different process. But by the same token, he also comes from the scientific world, specifically chemistry. You’re going to hear about that, and lots of stuff today. So hope you welcome to unstoppable mindset. And thanks for being here.
Dr. Hoby Wedler 01:58
Mike, thank you so much. It’s a real honor to be here. I think it’s so cool what you’re doing with the podcast and just very happy to be a guest.
Michael Hingson 02:07
Well, I’m looking forward to having a lot of fun. And I think we’ll find some interesting things to talk about. So my
Dr. Hoby Wedler 02:13
it’s all about, it’s all about just jiving, and in coming up with, with topics that makes sense
Michael Hingson 02:20
and stuff. Yeah, exactly. So needless to say, I think we played it a minute ago, you are blind, you’ve been blind your whole life.
Dr. Hoby Wedler 02:29
I have never seen anything. There you go. Well, I’ve
Michael Hingson 02:32
had a little bit of light perception I did when I was growing up. And I didn’t even notice that it went away. But at one point in my life, it suddenly dawned on me that I’m not even seeing light anymore. And when I went to an ophthalmologist, I find out that cataract had developed over my eyes, but I couldn’t convince them to get rid of the cataract because it’s not going to do you any good. And I said, Well, I might see light again.
Dr. Hoby Wedler 02:55
Mike, what is it? This is an interesting question. As someone who has literally never been able to see at all, what does it feel like to see like you describe that sensation?
Michael Hingson 03:06
I don’t know how to really describe it. So the problem is, it’s like, I asked people all the time, what is it like to see red? Or what is it like to do? Or what is it? Or since we both do it? What is it like to hear? We can simulate not hearing by completely covering our ears and cutting out all sounds? And there are ways to do that. I don’t know whether that’s exactly the same as profoundly deaf people experience not hearing, but how to describe hearing as such, or how to describe seeing, yeah, I don’t know how to do that. I’ve only heard people do it with analogies. You know, red well, they talk about hot fire rages. Yeah. So let me see if I can try this. Have you ever been walking along and crashed your forehead into a wall or something?
Dr. Hoby Wedler 04:06
I was born blind, you know? Yes.
Michael Hingson 04:09
Well, you know, but you might be really good. But when what happens? What happens? What do you experience the the moment you do that?
Dr. Hoby Wedler 04:17
It’s that feeling of sudden stopping and a little startling.
Michael Hingson 04:24
So for me, when that happens, you know, you’ve probably read books where someone gets hit on the head and so on. And suddenly they see stars and yeah, and, and I’m wondering if you see any other kind of foreign or you experience any other kind of foreign sensations? I
Dr. Hoby Wedler 04:40
don’t know. You know, it’s so funny because as someone who’s never been able to see, I honestly don’t know. It’s such an interesting and good question though. You know, it’s interesting actually thinking about senses in general in the sense of smell. Because the and that’s an area where I do a lot of work and spend a lot of my time a lot of people lost either their sense of smell or taste or both during the pandemic that we’re just coming out of, or maybe not. And, and talk about the fact, I’ve read countless articles now say, I just find it all fascinating. They talk about the fact that they didn’t realize how much they used those two senses until they weren’t there until they weren’t there. And I find that so fascinating, because you and I, whether whether it’s subconscious or not, we use our sense of smell the navigate all the time, or I think we do I do.
Michael Hingson 05:38
Well, actually, in the spirit of full disclosure, I discovered in 2013, that I had lost pretty much all of my sense of smell and a lot of sense of taste. And it happened, I think, because I took one of those cold medications that in fact, caused that to happen. And it’s never shaken it there. Well, there was zinc in it. And, you know, there have been others where I know that people haven’t had that problem, but there were some that did. So I don’t know what the formulary was that created that and caused it to happen. But, um, so I don’t smell as well, I can still taste some differences in in wines, and certainly differences in foods, but it’s not as sharp as it was.
Dr. Hoby Wedler 06:28
I’m sorry to hear that. That’s no fun to lose that sense. It isn’t.
Michael Hingson 06:31
But you know, the other side of it is that I know what I had, and I know the experiences from that. And so it still is helpful when I experienced tasting and so on, to know what was there. And so I can sort of fill in some of the gaps, which probably is is similar to what happens to people who lose their eyesight. I imagine that’s true. They can they can fill in the gaps or not. And that is one of the reasons I’m a firm believer in people who are partially blind when they discover they’re losing their eyesight, and they go to centers to learn about techniques. I am a firm believer that people should learn to travel under sleep shades centers should really be teaching people that it’s okay to be blind and don’t use your eyesight as much as you can. Yeah, because the reality is that they may very well lose the rest of it. And if they start to recognize now that their their world is really one of being blind, then their eyesight will help them all the more for it and that will turn to trust a cane. Ken Jernigan, the past president of the National Federation of the Blind, created and wrote an article called a definition of blindness, which anyone can read if they go to the NFB website, www.nfb.org NFP being National Federation of the Blind. But what Dr. Jernigan says, Because you are blind, if you have lost enough eyesight that you have to use alternatives to eyesight to accomplish tasks. Absolutely. Which doesn’t mean that you’ve lost all of your eyesight.
Dr. Hoby Wedler 08:13
Yeah, no, it doesn’t. And I say, oh, go ahead. Go ahead. I was just gonna say in that sort of vein, I honestly think and this is often contrary to what a lot of sighted people think. I think you and I have it easier than the people who have partial sight?
Michael Hingson 08:30
Oh, I think so in a lot of ways, because we grew up with it. But also we we had parents who encouraged us and we had other parts of the community that encouraged us, and our makeup allowed us also to resist people telling us what we couldn’t do.
Dr. Hoby Wedler 08:46
Right. Well, and I, to your point, I think so much of success, or there is a failure in the disabled disability world comes down to the support system that surround early on and particular particular families and that parental support. Man, that’s a huge thing. If our parents were overly protective of us and held us back and locked us away when we were babies. Think about what we wouldn’t have done and tried to do now.
Michael Hingson 09:16
I have, I have met people who actually lived in Chicago when I lived in Chicago. I was born in 1950. So you can do the math, anyone. But for the first five years of my life, I lived in Chicago. I was born two months premature. A lot of kids were it’s a part of the whole baby boomer era, right? But I have met people since both even as a child but then later, whose parents sheltered them a lot more. And I saw and continue to remember what I experienced about what they could and couldn’t do and how house self sufficient or independent, or even mentally thinking about being self sufficient or independent they were or they weren’t. And the reality is that kids who are more sheltered, don’t grow up learning a lot of the things that that they could learn just by being out in the world. And that’s why I am a firm believer that parents need to what we would probably say today is take more risks. It is that’s absolutely right. It isn’t really a lot of risk taking it is really, your child being exposed,
Dr. Hoby Wedler 10:33
it might feel like risk taking, but it really isn’t, you know, it’s I mean, it is, in some ways, if there be take that, you know, if you if you do things that are, some people might, I can see why people would call it that. But you know, there’s another another element of parenting. Children who are blind that I think is so crucial and often gets unnoticed is the idea of talking and seeing what you’re doing. That is where my parents really one of the areas, they really excelled. They in the kitchen, for instance, when they were making breakfast, they would describe I remember my mom describing exactly what she was doing. And I didn’t think anything of it at the time, I was pretty young toddler. But now when I think back on it, I realized the whole point of that was that things didn’t just happen mysteriously, you know, if you imagine raising a sighted kid and you get them a bowl of cereal, you know, they’re going to see you get that walk over to the cupboard, get the bull’s eye, okay, now I know where the holes are stored, or my cereal comes from, they’re gonna see the box of cereal come out of a different cabinet, they’re gonna see the cereal get poured into the bowl, they’re gonna see the parent, go to the fridge and get the milk, they’re gonna see the spoon get taken out of the drawer and set down on a napkin next to the bowl, and then they’re gonna see this bowl be set before them. And it’s not a mystery. But if you don’t say anything, and you do all that with a blind kid, they’re not gonna know the milk goes in the fridge. They’re not, they’re not gonna be able to figure that stuff out. So it’s, you’ve got to talk about it.
Michael Hingson 12:03
And the children whose parents did that the chil the children whose parents recognized that no matter what the disability, it didn’t mean that their child didn’t have gifts and that they needed to do everything they could to and Hance or allow children to learn to use those gifts. Isn’t that those are the lucky kids.
Dr. Hoby Wedler 12:28
Yeah. Yeah. And there are relatively few of us.
Michael Hingson 12:32
And there are relatively few of us. Some people are good. Some people have learned it later in life and have done well. But from from a standpoint of kids, there are there there are apparently, few of us, you’re gonna ask,
Dr. Hoby Wedler 12:47
Oh, it’s just gonna ask us for sort of mentioned that a comment or a question, rather, that I get a lot of the time is would you ever want your eyesight? And my answer to that is a resounding no. Because I don’t want to have to learn how to really live in this world. I know braille, I read Braille, very proficiently, I don’t need to learn print, I don’t need to know what it looks like to drive down the road, I can roll my window down and smell the air, I can listen to the air blow by. So it’s no I don’t, I don’t need to change the world I live in because I love the world I live in. And I don’t want to throw the same question back at you. And ask you, you know, what is your response to that question?
Michael Hingson 13:27
I respond a little bit differently than you. But it amounts to the same thing. And that is? Well, yeah, I suppose I might be interested in doing it only because it would be another adventure. But the reality is, I’m very comfortable in my skin. And I and I also know, in a sense, what visually I don’t see. So driving down the road, the experience of driving and doing the things that that sighted people do, being able to drive and avoid that car that’s coming at you and then stick out your your finger at them or so on. So some of that we don’t get to do but also. I know that the time is coming, that we’re all going to change. So I I have actually driven a Tesla down I 15 going from Delhi up here down toward Riverside and so on.
Dr. Hoby Wedler 14:24
I do not I tell me a little more about the story. How did this happen?
Michael Hingson 14:29
I was going down to do a speech and the person who was taking me down, owned a Tesla. And we talked a lot about the technology and he said you want to drive it and I said sure. And so I reached over and basically it was in a a well, copilot I won’t say a self driving mode but copilot so it was watching what was going on on the road. And basically it required that someone keep their hand on the wheel. So it wasn’t that I was doing a lot of work. But we had programmed into the GPS where we were going, and the Tesla and the automation, steer the vehicle, we avoided cars and so on. So I got a great feel for it. And I recognize that the car was in control. But I’ve also been to Daytona, yeah, in 2011, for the Rolex 24 race and the Blind Driver Challenge, the challenge where Mark Riccobono, the current president of the National Federation of the Blind, drove a car independently around the Daytona speedway. And that was using technology that gave him the information so that he could drive the car, not with automation, like in a Tesla, but literally drove the car, avoiding obstacles, and so on. And he had to do all of the work. And I did, I did drive the simulator, so I got a feel for it. But I also know that we’re all eventually going to be using autonomous vehicles, a lot of things are going to change. And the other part to answering your question is, oh, my God, I don’t want to be able to see and do what those people do. There are too many crazy drivers on the road. I don’t want to be responsible for that.
Dr. Hoby Wedler 16:11
You got it? Yeah, absolutely. Tiger.
Michael Hingson 16:15
But you But you, you had very good parents, you were very fortunate in terms of being encouraged to do what you you do and what you did. So where did that take you? You went out of high school, you went into college? What did you do in college? And what was your major and all? Yeah, you
Dr. Hoby Wedler 16:32
know, my parents, just to just to circle back a little bit, or, or, like, they dispense still on my biggest supporters. And, you know, they, they did two things really, really, really did many things really well. But I’ll focus on two right now. My brothers two years older and sighted. And the first major thing is they treated us with the same high expectations, I was not given lower expectations to follow, because I happen to be blind. And keeping us both to the same high high standard was really crucial to me growing up and, and being an active participant in this world we call home. They also taught us that the most important thing we can do is to take responsibility for ourselves, our lives and our actions. And hey, if we take responsibility and challenge ourselves in situations, and we succeed, we deserve the credit for that success. And frankly, if you fail, you deserve to take the blame. And that that pushed me and my brother so far. I see a lot of a lot of blind kids with sighted peers. There’s a little bit of jealousy. And there’s a lot of Oh, yeah, you know, we have high expectations of one and not the other. And I just, I just don’t think that’s necessary. And I think it actually really creates bad feeling so, so grateful and very happy now that my parents just really pushed me and in a nice way, and expected, by the way, that we would have the same ultra high expectations of them. So that was a really powerful thing. Um, after high school, I went on, I was in high school when I fell in love with chemistry. When it came time, I took physical science and loved chemistry there. And then when it came to my junior year, I said, Well, shoot, I’ll take the test to get an honors chemistry. And I’m not sure the instructor was really expecting me to take the test and get the top score on it. But I ended up taking the test. And then she’s in a pickle of God, he took the test now what do we do get to get these, you know, we got to get him into the class. So sure enough, I came into the class. And it was a Yeah, it was a great experience, we found someone to work with me who had taken the class before, as my eyes in the laboratory. But the instructor would would do something kind of interesting. She would tell the class, you all should think about studying chemistry. It’s amazing. We live it, we breathe it, we eat it, we drink it, it really describes the world around us. And I know the physicists out there saying now physics is a little more fundamental. So you can comment there, if you will. But I think chemistry is pretty darn fundamental. And she would tell me when I was in her classroom, getting assistance, solving problems and that sort of thing. I’d say, hey, let’s, uh, you know, I want to study chemistry, I actually want to do what you’re asking us to do. And she would say, Oh, holy, it’s really impractical. It’s such a visual science. I don’t know how that’s gonna work. And I still vividly remember the day the exact day that I went into a classroom was the second week of the second semester. It’s early in the morning before students arrived. And I said, you know, you’ve been telling me that chemistry is a visual science and that it probably wouldn’t make sense for me to study. But I gotta tell you, nobody can see at us. So therefore chemistry is truly a cerebral science. And she had a light bulb go off and said, Hmm, that’s interesting. You’re right. And from that point on, became an absolute supporter and ally, and still is a dear friend and supporter and everything I do. So that was an incredible opportunity to realize that, hey, chemistry really isn’t a cerebral isn’t visual science, it’s in our head, we use our eyesight for some of what we pick up in the laboratory. But if you think about the electromagnetic electromagnetic spectrum running from, you know, very small distances of Pico meter length waves all the way up to several meters, there’s only one little tiny itty bitty part that we can see, which is between 704 100 I should say it in a different order, 407 100 nanometer wavelength light. And that means there’s a whole lot of other light that can be detected, that has nothing to do with our eyesight. And we used a lot of that light in terms of radio waves and microwaves and that sort of thing to understand what’s going on in our in our chemical samples, and then review the data. So I ended up long story short, I’m sure you wanted a shorter answer than this. But I ended up studying chemistry in college and not really knowing that I was a nerd at that point and wanted to teach, I always had the heart of a teacher, that was always my goal is to, is to teach.
Dr. Hoby Wedler 21:18
I got a degree in United States history as well, because I knew that I was going to be in graduate school in order to teach and I didn’t know how accessible chemistry was going to be. And I didn’t necessarily want an assistant, you know, looking over my shoulder 16 hours a day in the laboratory. So I thought, well, let me let me study history, so that I have a backup plan. And I was actually and I minored in math just because I’m a nerd and can’t help myself and found abstract algebra really useful for chemistry. And it’s like, I took those three courses. And I don’t know, some career counselor, some advisor in the math department said, you know, you’re only two courses away from a math minor. Oh, okay. Well, I took a logic class and a history of math class, which I loved as well. And ended up with a minor in math. But beside the point, I ended up, I was ready to apply to history graduate schools throughout the state, actually, of California. When I met my graduate advisor, who studies Computational Chemistry, I worked in his lab for a while as an undergraduate. And as great mentors often do, he sort of saw a future for me in chemistry in computational chemistry, before I kind of saw it for myself, and just recommended that I study chemistry and in his group, and apply and hopefully get into graduate school, so I did, ended up doing both my undergraduate and graduate work at UC Davis, University of California Davis, which was interesting. And a reason one reason for that there’s a few reasons but one main one, Mike, is that I didn’t want to have to convince another group of staff in the chemistry department and faculty that I could do what I could do, it was just easier to work with people who are believed in me and trusted me, quite frankly, I’m ended up earning my PhD in 2016, and have gone on from there and done nothing in chemistry.
Michael Hingson 23:07
Well, as a physicist, I’m glad that we were able to help you by inventing light for you. So you know. But yeah, thank you, I really think I think both physics and chemistry are part of the universe, and it isn’t really fair to ever say one is so much better than the other. I believe that’s true, we would have a hard time living without chemists or physicists. And and I think both of us could also say, and we would have a hard time living without engineers, who everybody seems to pick off. So it’s okay.
Dr. Hoby Wedler 23:40
We think we can handle the nitty gritty stuff, but we need someone to build things for us. Okay.
Michael Hingson 23:44
Yeah. And and we need someone to figure out what it is that we need to do to handle the nitty gritty. So the mathematicians count as well.
Dr. Hoby Wedler 23:52
That’s it. No, absolutely. Well,
Michael Hingson 23:55
so you just said a very interesting thing. You graduated in 2016, with a PhD in chemistry, and then haven’t done anything with it since? Why?
Dr. Hoby Wedler 24:08
Well, and I won’t say I’ve done nothing with it. Once again. That’s one society. Well, sure, once once you go that far, you’re always a scientist. And I will always consider myself a chemist. I wanted to teach. I told you that. And I had the honor of teaching some undergraduate classes. And so my desire to teach was to get people early on, excited about something maybe they didn’t know they were excited about. So I wanted to be that instructor who came into the freshmen chemistry class with, you know, four or 500 students at 8am. On a Monday morning after a long weekend partying and get some of those students. Now, 90 plus percent of them are there because chemistry is a prerequisite and they just can’t wait to get it over with. Yeah, I want to get some of those students excited about studying chemistry beyond this, this general chemistry course. That was my passion. I wanted to be a chemistry lecture to the very early chemistry students, because that’s when you can shake people and help change how they think about what’s possible for them. And I taught several of those courses at Davis and I realized something that was hard to realize, which is that students did not speak chemistry, they want some explanation of what they see on the screen. But what they really want to see are pretty pictures and animations and videos showing exactly what’s what’s happening with a lot of this years. And that there’s and then we put this over here, and we can see this red thing down over there and then be ready for the test on Friday. Now, I can’t explain chemistry to you very well. But I need to use my words, mostly. Now, I do understand that many concepts are very much supported by images, and and graphs and charts and diagrams, and whatever the case may be. So I absolutely would spend time with assistants putting together PowerPoints with some of those images. And what I realized is I was spending a lot of time and money working on basically making beautiful presentations with beautiful video clips, and animations and things that would slide in and slide out and fly around just to keep the students entertained. And I’d have to spend hours memorizing these presentations so that I could talk about them cohesively as I, as I showed them, basically. And that was all time spent working with several different assistants. The other thing that I found disappointing was that students didn’t read the textbook, if I would say, Okay, we’re focusing on Chapter two sections three and four. Tomorrow, I would say maybe 2% of my students actually read the book, and came ready to talk about it. And for for those students out there, I will just tell you, if your instructor teaches from a book, read the book ahead of time. So that lecture feels like a review. Right? That’s, that’s really crucial, in my opinion. So one thing led to another and while I was in graduate school, concurrent with my graduate tenure, I had the opportunity of working with Francis Ford Coppola, I know you have as well. He asked me through a friend, I met him. And he asked me to host a truly blindfolded Wine Experience. And he said, You decide how this is done. The reason I’m asking you to do this, is I don’t want it to be gaudy. And
Dr. Hoby Wedler 27:38
you know, so gamified, I want it to be real and authentic. And I commend him for wanting to have a blind person design and run this program, because I can use the blindfold. And I will never tell you, Hey, this is what it’s like to be me, that would be silly. But what we can do is we can use the blindfold not at all as a toy, or as something gimmicky. That’s the other thing Francis said, he said, above all OB, this can’t be gimmicky, and I couldn’t have agreed more. So, you know, we built out the experience. Where the blindfold is literally something that temporarily removes a sense that we use for to take in a lot of our information if we’re sighted. So when we remove it logically, our other senses were differently. And we can focus on different variables, maybe we can focus more on how wine smells, maybe we can focus more when we’re not distracted by our eyesight on how wine tastes. And maybe we can just focus on what’s being sat around us a little more the voices that we hear that way, the chair we’re sitting on feels, all sorts of things. And by the way, I really do believe and this is sort of an aside, that if you’re going to do blindfolded stuff, you have to do it tastefully, and you have to do it well. And there are some programs out there that do it well, and there are a lot of programs out there that don’t do it well. So I am one who really takes pride in giving sighted people that temporary experience and not distracted by eyesight in a way that does not be little, or suggests that this is what it’s like to be me or anything of the sort. And I’m very, very careful about that. By the way.
Michael Hingson 29:18
That’s one of the concerns I have about things that are called dining in the dark is that most people say you’ll get to see what it’s like to be blind. No, you won’t. You don’t have any of the training. You don’t have any of the background. But I like what you say which is that if you treat eyesight as a distraction, or if you treat being blindfolded, as a way to avoid the distraction that goes along with eyesight, then you can use your other senses, which in fact for something like tasting are just as important, if not more, so unless There’s something that’s an absolute requirement for the presentation of the food. Absolutely. And, and I understand that, and I appreciate that we watched Food Network a lot, we see things about presentation and was my immediate reaction as well. So the taste of the food, but I also do appreciate that there is a place for presentation, but for tasting and so on, you need to get rid of distractions. It’s like anything else, you need to get rid of distractions to focus on what it is that you want to focus on. And the last time the last time I heard, we didn’t have eyes in our mouths so that we could see the wine as we’re tasting it exactly in our mouths. So yeah, but But I hear what you’re saying. So you did that with France.
Dr. Hoby Wedler 30:43
Someone asked me a funny question. When I was a freshman in college and the dining hall. They said, How can you eat when you don’t know where your mouth is? And my response to them was like, That’s news to me, I guess you with a rearview mirror on your head all the time? Not? Okay. You know? Yeah. It’s just interesting. People’s people’s perception, people’s perceptions. Yeah. So you work with friends you work through that, for a while actually took took it on the road pretty soon after we started as a hospitality experience for his wineries in Sonoma County, right. And as soon as the Sales Team National Sales Team heard about it, they wanted it for them. So we brought it on the road. And what’s great about being a computational chemist is that my laptop was my laboratory. And my advisor was very willing to say, go travel and figure out what you want to do. So I worked with them. And I got really involved in this in the world of food and beverage, and that community in the sensory aspects of food and beverage and met a lot of really neat people who I thought were really interesting and really cool. And this is concurrent with teaching, feeling a little less accessible than it honestly could. So one thing kind of led to another and I found myself really loving the world of sensory design and designing high end experiences and products to an extent based on our non visual sensory input. And logically that works into food and beverage quite well. So I do a lot of personal consulting in the in the food and beverage world on product development, on tweaking products to make them even better than they already are. These sorts of things, we still do a lot of speaking a lot of these tasting experiences, when and where desired. There’s nothing regularly scheduled, but I do them a lot as a consultant. And then I love thinking about creative as well. So it’s not only science and taste, it’s it’s science and art, and how can we straddle that very fine intersection between science and art. And the way that I’ve come up with is through being creative. So I’m a creative thinker, and I thought that creative was a good thing to focus on. So I actually co founded a creative and marketing studio called cents point in 2017. And my business partner, Justin is here in California with me, our third partner, is our creative director as well, man named Jody Tucker, who’s based down in Adelaide, Australia. And because of my love for food and beverage, and in gaining popularity in the industry, I just this last year started my own brand of gourmet seasonings, it’s expanding a lot right now, by the way, in terms of the products that we have out there, we currently have two products on the market, hoagies essentials as the name of the brand, and we have a rosemary, salt, and a blend of sort of an all purpose dry rub that we’re calling happy paprika, but that line is expanding very quickly into about half a dozen more products, probably before the end of the year. So we’re really excited about that.
Michael Hingson 33:38
Well, we’re gonna need to get some of those to, to put on meat when I barbecue and I do the barbecuing and the grilling in the house. So absolutely. We need to to work that. But so I’m going to ask right now, and I’ll probably ask at the end, if people want to learn more about that. How do they do it?
Dr. Hoby Wedler 33:56
Where do they go to hobi.com? And that’s H ovy.com. And that’s got all my stuff? My my personal website, the homies essentials brand site, everything’s there.
Michael Hingson 34:07
Yeah. Are any of the hobbies essential products being sold in any kind of mainstream markets yet? Or is it too new
Dr. Hoby Wedler 34:14
not a Gaussian distribution in Novato at p hardware? And you know, which it very well, it’s a great place, isn’t it? Yeah. And then Rex hardware up here in Petaluma, which is another H store and a couple of markets out in Sebastopol. So we’re small but we’re growing that retail presence.
Michael Hingson 34:34
So when do we get to see you on Shark Tank? Oh, you know Shark Tank?
Dr. Hoby Wedler 34:41
That’d be fun. Yeah, I’m an entrepreneur. I do a lot of it.
Michael Hingson 34:45
There you go. So when do we get to see you on Shark Tank? That’s the question.
Dr. Hoby Wedler 34:48
Ah man, well, maybe sooner rather than later my funding dries up.
Michael Hingson 34:53
Or don’t wait for it to dry but enhance it. There it is. There it is one of the things that in impressed as me and you know, needless to say, we’ve known each other a while and I’ve had a chance to, to watch you and so on and see what you do. You, you really do talk the talk. And by that I mean and walk the walk. But you, you act as a role model in a lot of ways. So yes, you’ve formed hobbies, essentially, yes, you helped create sense point design. But you’ve also taken it further, in that when you see opportunities to address issues regarding disabilities, I’ve seen that you’ve done a lot of that. And I know that one of the things that you have taken a great interest in is the whole idea of inclusion and access on the internet.
Dr. Hoby Wedler 35:43
Yeah, I do care a lot about that, and many other things as well. We started a nonprofit, which is now on hiatus called accessible science that basically basically brought blind kids together for annual chemistry camps, that enchanted Hills camp for the blind, and taught them how to do hands on organic chemistry. That was what we call it, but really, it was to teach them they could do whatever the heck they wanted them or how visual the career seems. And we’ve had students come from that and become, you know, get their get their PhDs and masters and all sorts of things and fields, they didn’t really think were were possible for them to study. So it’s kind of fun to just open minds a little bit to what’s possible. And, and because the word mindset is in the, in the title of your part of your show here. You know, I think it’s all about forming the right mindset. And with the right mindset, we can do anything we want. And the same thing, I think it’s about, you know, making the internet more accessible, is all about mindset, and all about really thinking about the user while designing the webpage.
Michael Hingson 36:52
You have, you have clearly done a lot in the the the internet world and so on. And you’ve used your experiences with sense point design, as I said, and hope is essential as to to role model, what kinds of ways have you helped to influence what’s occurring with access in the internet and so on?
Dr. Hoby Wedler 37:13
You know, number one, I just I think it’s when we design websites for our clients, we think about that. And we want a solution because not all of us are accessible web accessibility experts. So our what I loved is kind of obsessively is a part of your life. When I found out about accessory it made perfect sense to me if there’s a if there’s an automated tool that we can use to help make websites fully accessible, that’s exactly what I want. Because my team aren’t necessarily experts in the in the accessibility. I mean, we know about accessibility and the WCAG you know that but some of these some of these people are really our experts and frankly, a lot of our clients can’t afford what it takes to maintain a website is fully accessible it’s 1000s of dollars a month. So they get really excited when I present them with a solution that’s only $49 a month that makes their site very accessible across many different platforms. So that’s that’s the main way that I have found to fully it will take to make fully accessible the websites we consult on or design
Michael Hingson 38:27
how did you find accessible How did you discover it?
Dr. Hoby Wedler 38:30
That’s a really funny story. I actually found excessively initially because my brother was chatting with your CEO about possibly investing in the company I’m not sure where that conversation went but he mentioned excessive yes or no that’s interesting. And then a few years later a couple years later I saw the solution when looking for just good automated tools to make websites more accessible and contacted someone in your in your sales department a woman by the name of Jenna Gemma Fantoni don’t know if you know her. But she then set us up as a as an affiliate partner accessory. So since point is an affiliate partner of accessory, and it’s really easy to to use and make your site accessible.
Michael Hingson 39:15
What do you think about the people who have concerns about using an artificial intelligence system and an automated solution to help address access and inclusion, as opposed to the manual coding traditional way of dealing with it?
Dr. Hoby Wedler 39:32
I think there’s a solution for every client and it’s not going to be the same for anyone. I think if you can afford the the manual coding, which again is going to be several $1,000 a month, use it if that’s what you want to do use it. I don’t see any problem with automated tools. You know if we were talking about cars becoming more automated, I’ll tell you that Elon Musk back in September We were a group of four civilians up to space, they orbit at higher than the International Space Station at 519 kilometers. These people didn’t know how to fly spacecraft, but the automated spacecraft, flew them around the earth and low Earth orbit for 72 hours, launched them and brought them right back to Earth. And, boy, if that’s not if that’s not a suggestion that that automation and some AI can really help, I don’t know what is. So when it comes to websites, I see absolutely no reason that it’s a that it’s a problem. Sure, there are things that it might miss. Yeah, that’s, that could be true. But what’s great about that you and I have an extensive talks about this. But when we find a problem, and we fix it in the back end of accessibility, we’re fixing it for all the people who have accessible, not just that one website. So it really, it really is a practical solution. And I don’t understand this one or the other approach, you know, it’s let’s be more inclusive and think about what’s best for the client. You know, I’ve got clients who are more small wineries or use very small organizations that can afford to make their make their stuff fully accessible by hard coding. They are really excited by an option that makes their site accessible and usable by all parties. The other thing that accessory does the overlays like accessibility really well. And I think accessory does particularly well is thinking about other disabilities. It’s not just those of us who are visually impaired. Think about blinking pulsating cursors for people with epilepsy, and how that might stimulate seizure. There’s so many things that we can that we should be considering when we think about accessibility. And I really like a solution that includes all all parties and all folks in in that, that solution. So I really, I really do believe in accessibility, Oh, no.
Michael Hingson 41:59
Well, I have maintained for quite a while that when we talk about disabilities, and so on. In reality, the concept of diversity has gone away. People never talk about disabilities or very, very, very, very rarely talk about disabilities. When it comes to diversity. I mean, we were hearing regularly, especially every year around Oscar time about how there has to be more diversity. There have to be more women, there has to be different racial content, we have to have more directories of
Dr. Hoby Wedler 42:36
diversity, the photo has to look more diverse
Michael Hingson 42:39
in the photo, but they never talk about disabilities being a part of it. Why is it that we don’t have a blind movie director? And why is it that we can’t there’s there’s no reason. Now I don’t know how to do it. And I am not interested in being a director. Although I’m sure I could learn to talk like one you know, and all that but, but I’m not really interested in being a movie director. But I suspect that there are some blind people who have the knowledge and the talent, certainly people in wheelchairs and so on. And Marlee Matlin is a person who is deaf has done a great deal in, in the entertainment world. But the reality is we don’t get included. How do we change that conversation? At a basic level in society to get more inclusion, about people with disabilities, the conversations that we have?
Dr. Hoby Wedler 43:37
Yeah, it’s an interesting question. You know, I think I see that from from multiple different angles, the first thing I’d say is that I personally believe that a blind person’s perspective is an extremely diverse one, and a life that was lived very differently than others, and should be listened to. I also think that diversity means literally bringing people with different perspectives. It’s not how they look or what their you know what their gender is, or anything like this. It’s sure those things matter tremendously. But it’s about the perspective that they bring that their upbringing and their background brings to the table. And I think if you have a more diverse team, you’re going to have more perspectives at the table to come up with a broader solution to a problem. And frankly, in a business setting, a more diverse team is going to increase your bottom line fairly dramatically. Why specifically, are people with disabilities not included? I think we’re trying to change that. I think we’re trying to remind people, Hey, we, you know, those of us with disabilities have have perspectives that are very unique and very worth considering. And, you know, I think we need to just show society, what it is that we can do. You know, it’s that’s one of the reasons that I was happy to get the graduate degree that I got. And I imagine it’s the same for you, even if you don’t end up using it, you know, for academics, you know, people know that We know how to work hard. And but I think that a lot of the reason we don’t get included is because not because people don’t are angry with us and don’t want to include us. It’s simply because they don’t know how to include us. They don’t know what we can do. I think it’s our job to educate people and say, Hey, no, we we can be right. They’re at the table with you, you know, and help solve problems and all that sort of thing.
Michael Hingson 45:24
I think there’s a fear element, but it comes down to not knowing right? People are also afraid of things they don’t understand. They don’t understand primarily disabilities. And they’re also afraid, well, that could happen to me, which is probably the the best thought that they can have. Because the reality is, it could happen to you. So why aren’t you including people up front who have disabilities, or who have those characteristics that you do not have? It’s disabilities as a, as a classification is one of those characteristics that most people, including most people who happen to have disabilities today are not born with? It’s true, but it is a characteristic that anyone can acquire.
Dr. Hoby Wedler 46:06
It’s no one minority group that we all can and probably will join, if we live are lucky enough to live long enough,
Michael Hingson 46:12
in one way or another? Absolutely. And there’s no reason for a lack of inclusion, one of the things I really love about accessibility is that it is really helping in its own way to change that the very fact that it’s a scalable solution. Yeah, it’s a solution that can work in so many ways. And accessibility is also now creating a suite of products that go beyond the overlay. But the other thing that I think that happened this year, that really excites me, is that excessive, be created a series of television commercials. Yeah. And everyone in the commercial had disabilities. It was all done with actors. Incredible.
Dr. Hoby Wedler 47:00
Yep. Showing and showing that this actually matters. And we are not only going to help people with disabilities, we’re going to put them we’re going to put them in our advertisements, putting them to work. Yeah, absolutely.
Michael Hingson 47:14
And the reality is, I don’t I don’t know all the the video vignettes that were shown, but I know a number of them. And the reality is that it really shows that we can be anywhere just like anyone else, which is, of course, one of the things that I hope people learn from, from my story, you know, we wrote thunder, dog, and so on, and it’s all about fine people can be anywhere just like you including near the top of the World Trade Center in escaping. And it and it isn’t luck to escape anymore than for anyone else it is in strategy. It is absolutely strategy and preparation. Yeah, it
Dr. Hoby Wedler 47:55
is. And being ready for that day. When it comes frankly, and, and having the training that you need. You know, I by the way, I’ll just say something about commercials and people with disabilities, I’ve seen something that I don’t particularly enjoy, which are people with disabilities being used for advertising purposes. And then to see the company not hiring people with disabilities, that’s a little frustrating. So if we’re going to show people with disabilities, let’s make a commitment to bring them in on our team as well.
Michael Hingson 48:25
I think that’s important. And I also think that companies that say that they’re accessible, and they have a lot of visible stuff relating to so called Accessibility, don’t really need to prove it. I’ve seen any number of products that come out, or get updated over the years, and accessibility gets broken. That should never happen. I agree. And it’s it’s truly unfortunate that those those kinds of things occur. Yeah, of course, it’s easy to sit here and say excessive he can help with, with APA well with internet stuff right now to address that. And we’ll see what happens with apps down the line. But sure, but but the fact of the matter is inclusion is something that we all should take very seriously. And we should adopt a more inclusive mindset. There’s there’s nothing wrong with doing that.
Dr. Hoby Wedler 49:17
No. It’s important.
Michael Hingson 49:21
Well, it is and we have to do our part. And I think you’ve said it very well. We do have to be the educators and we we must work in an environment where we don’t get offended or upset when people ask us questions, especially when they’re really legitimately and obviously trying to learn. The last thing we want to do is to not be good teachers and discourage people. No, that’s
Dr. Hoby Wedler 49:48
absolutely true. I would I would agree with that head over heels.
Michael Hingson 49:54
So where do you go from here? What what’s next in your adventurous life?
Dr. Hoby Wedler 49:59
I think Working on this season’s brand, getting it out there really, really trying to try to put together I’m actually working on a show right now just about experience in the food and beverage industry that we’re going to try to popularize here. And that’s going to be in the next probably latter half of say latter half, maybe mid mid part of, of 2022. And, yeah, just growing from there and see where see where the journey of food and beverage takes me. How’s that?
Michael Hingson 50:30
Can you tell us a little about the show? Or is it too premature?
Dr. Hoby Wedler 50:32
It’s pretty premature. I’ll hold off on that. But I’ll tell you why. After we do our pilot, maybe maybe you’ll be kind enough to have me on again. And I’ll tell you,
Michael Hingson 50:41
I would love to and you know, of course, if you need another blind person to to volunteer in any way, let me know.
Dr. Hoby Wedler 50:48
Thank you very much. I will do that. Even if tasting
Michael Hingson 50:51
isn’t my forte at the moment. Well, I can taste salt. But you also do some other work. You’re involved with some other nonprofits. I know you’re the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Euro bound Center for
Dr. Hoby Wedler 51:05
the Blind. You and I both care deeply about the Euro bond center and are on the board. This great, it’s a blindness Training Center in Santa Rosa, California, serving four counties, Sonoma, Lake, Napa, Mendocino, and I live in Petaluma, which is in Sonoma County. And it’s pretty great to have an awesome training center in our backyard.
Michael Hingson 51:27
It’s it’s interesting, because during the pandemic, URL by Baum did some very interesting things to help keep classes going. And I know you did. And I participated remotely in some of the orientation and mobility classes in some of the other classes. Partly for encouragement, but also partly to help teach alternative techniques and use our skills to help people understand even if it’s remotely how they can use good cane skills and other skills to be able to function. I was really impressed with Earl balms innovative approach to that because I saw other agencies that didn’t do nearly as much of that. They had this well suspend classes until the the pandemic was over or until it lessened. Right, I’m not sure as you I’m not sure if it’s over or not, or close to being over. But Earl balm was very creative in some of the things that it did.
Dr. Hoby Wedler 52:28
Well, they pivoted in less than a week. It was really fast. Yeah. And really cool to see, by the way.
Michael Hingson 52:36
And and they’ve done it well. Yeah, they have.
Dr. Hoby Wedler 52:39
Yeah. Well, I also serve on the board of the Petaluma Educational Foundation, where basically fund or private foundation funds, grants and scholarships to students all over Petaluma. So I have fun with that, too. More than chemistry,
Michael Hingson 52:53
Dr. Hoby Wedler 52:55
We do fund all programs. Yes. Yes, that’s right. That’s cool. That’s fun. It’s fun to get out there and be involved.
Michael Hingson 53:04
And that’s, that’s really it. Right? It’s, it’s all about having fun and enjoying what you do
Dr. Hoby Wedler 53:10
is because when you do that, it doesn’t feel like work.
Michael Hingson 53:14
And an incentive really isn’t. Well there any last things you’d like to say any last thoughts you have that you want to leave with people.
Dr. Hoby Wedler 53:22
Don’t forget to live life with the most positive mindset you can have. And a great way to feel good about yourself is to challenge yourself and succeed. So I always say, abundance mindset, the more people you know, the better. The more opportunities you have in the world, the better just Just live your life to the best of your ability. And don’t forget to have a little fun while you’re doing it.
Michael Hingson 53:47
And that makes you unstoppable. And I that’s exactly what it’s all about. And that makes anyone who does that unstoppable will hope you Wendler, thank you for being with us on unstoppable mindset today. It’s been a lot of fun. One more time, how can people reach you and
Dr. Hoby Wedler 54:03
just visit hoby.com That’s the best way to get in touch with me. All my contact info is there and there’s a contact form. You can find our Hoby’s Essentials product line there. You know you see a link right from that website to us. So that’s that’s the hub for everything.
Michael Hingson 54:24
Cool. Well thank you for being here. And if and if any of you listening will please do so I hope that you’ll go to your podcast host or you can go to MichaelHingson.com/podcast that’s M I C H A E L H I N G S O N.com slash podcast and give us a five star rating. We would appreciate your ratings and your comments. You’re also welcome to reach out. To me. The easiest way is through email. You can email me at MichaelHI M I C H A E l H I At accessiBe.com. accessiBe is spelled A C C E S S I B E. So Michaelhi@accessibe.com. we’d love to hear from you hear your thoughts what you think about the show. And hopefully you or anyone listening if you think of others who ought to be guests on on the unstoppable mindset podcast would definitely appreciate you letting us know and and suggested many others. Well, great, we we hope that you will fill our calendar with
Dr. Hoby Wedler 55:30
lots of will not be I will not be shy to introduce you.
Michael Hingson 55:33
Please do not be shy and we won’t be shy about inviting you back. So well. Thank
Dr. Hoby Wedler 55:38
you very much
Michael Hingson 55:39
me posted and we’ll we’ll
Dr. Hoby Wedler 55:40
I shall. Thank you, Michael. It’s been a pleasure.
Michael Hingson 55:45
Thanks again. Hopefully this has been really fun, which is of course what you want us to do.
Absolutely. Thank you. Thank you.
Michael Hingson 55:59
You have been listening to the Unstoppable Mindset podcast. Thanks for dropping by. I hope that you’ll join us again next week, and in future weeks for upcoming episodes. To subscribe to our podcast and to learn about upcoming episodes, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com slash podcast. Michael Hingson is spelled m i c h a e l h i n g s o n. While you’re on the site., please use the form there to recommend people who we ought to interview in upcoming editions of the show. And also, we ask you and urge you to invite your friends to join us in the future. If you know of any one or any organization needing a speaker for an event, please email me at speaker at Michael hingson.com. I appreciate it very much. To learn more about the concept of blinded by fear, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com forward slash blinded by fear and while you’re there, feel free to pick up a copy of my free eBook entitled blinded by fear. The unstoppable mindset podcast is provided by access cast an initiative of accessiBe and is sponsored by accessiBe. Please visit www.accessibe.com. accessiBe is spelled a c c e s s i b e. There you can learn all about how you can make your website inclusive for all persons with disabilities and how you can help make the internet fully inclusive by 2025. Thanks again for listening. Please come back and visit us again next week.