Episode 195 – Unstoppable Inclusion Advocate with Katherine Magnoli
Katherine, (Kat), Magnoli grew up in New York and definitely has an unstoppable New York attitude. At birth it was discovered that Kat was born with Spinal Bifida. As a result, she is a paraplegic and uses a wheelchair. Unlike many, Kat’s parents fully embraced Kat and the many gifts she has exhibited over her 39 years thus far.
In grammar school Kat experienced a number of bullying events, but worked through them with the help of her parents. Those childhood experiences and others Kat will describe shaped her decision to advocate for persons, especially children, with disabilities. She works a great deal to advocate on behalf of children with autism.
As we learn during our conversation, we share in our own ways many similar experiences especially concerning how people react to disabilities. Also, both of us are authors. I leave it to Kat to tell you about her books which you can procure.
If all her advocacy and writing work aren’t enough, Katherine is Miss Wheelchair Florida for 2017. Is that cool or what?
I believe you will enjoy our conversation during this episode and I hope you come away with a deeper understanding about disabilities on all levels.
About the Guest:
Katherine Magnoli is an inclusion advocate. She began her journey of advocacy by writing and publishing Children Adventure Books about a super hero in a wheelchair . Her books are titled The Adventures of KatGirl. Over the years, Katherine has read her stories to thousands of children.
Since then, Katherine has expanded her advocacy by participating and being the title holder of Ms. Wheelchair Florida 2017. During her time Katherine developed the Abilities Program, whose activities were used during Disability Awareness Month and Inclusion Week in 2018. She, also, created beach access in Sunny Isles Beach, Bal Harbour and Surfside.
After this, she joined Miami Inclusion Alliance to help bring awareness to the epidemic of Abuse against People with Disabilities.
In 2021, she was awarded the Idelio Valdez Advocacy and Leadership Award by the Florida Developmental Disability Council and became the representative of District 11 for the Commission of Disabilities Issues Board. Which, she is now the secretary, as well.
In addition, Katherine is the Founder, and President, of KatGirl and Friends Inc. It helps educate children about inclusion through her book series.
Finally, Katherine has recently begun disability etiquette training and has had the privilege of training students at University Level and prestigious Organizations such as American Civil Liberties Union.
Katherine is currently very active on social media helping educate the masses on inclusion of people with disabilities.
In the near future; Katherine will take part in the Family Cafe in Orlando, Miami Dade County’s ADA Celebration and will be a virtual panelist for the Space Coastal Progressive Alliance to discuss issues pertaining to services for people with disabilities.
Ways to connect with Kat:
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
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 ** 01:20
Well, hi and welcome once again to unstoppable mindset. Today, I get to have the honor of chatting with an author and a person who was Miss wheelchair in 2017. I’ve never met a miss wheelchair before, although my wife of 40 years was always in a wheelchair. So wheelchairs are not new to me. But a miss wheelchair is a new experience and an author. I have written books and love to talk to people who are authors and Kat Magnoli is definitely an advocate and a very prolific person in a lot of different ways. And we’re gonna get to all of that. So Kat or Katherine, whichever you prefer, whoever you are. Welcome to unstoppable mindset.
**Kat Magnoli ** 02:05
Thank you so much, Michael, for having me today. This is such an honor to be with you. And let’s get it started as you’d like.
**Michael Hingson ** 02:15
Well, we got introduced by Sheldon Lewis who also like I do works at accessiBe. And Sheldon had was interviewed on our podcast a long time ago. Well, we had a great conversation. And he’s been kind enough to tell us about other people like you ever since. So, well. Let’s start. Tell me a little bit about the early Katherine growing up or the early cat growing up, you know, a child and some of the early the early stuff about cat we should know.
**Kat Magnoli ** 02:44
Okay, well, first off, I am the youngest of seven children. I’m the only person in my family with a disability. And that was an interesting way to grow up. Because, you know, I was kind of sheltered. My parents were both very protective of me. But my siblings, you know, they never treated me as if I was in a wheelchair growing up, they always wanted me to be a part of the games that they were playing. And they made sure that they adapted it to my needs. They never were like, oh, you can’t do this, you know. And so I felt very accepted in that way. And I also at the time, was going to a school just for children with disabilities. So I really never experienced at a young age, you know, any form of bullying or discrimination or anything like that. That is until I was eight years old. And I was put into the public school district in a small town in New York called Yorktown Heights. And they, you know, I was the only person with a disability throughout all my schooling. And that was when I really got to see how people without a disability, treated those with a treated those of us with a disability. I went through a lot of bullying, a lot of ostracizing a lot of, you know, oh, you’re a liability. So you can’t come on this class trip. Or you can’t come on the camping trip or not being invited to birthday parties. actually remember this one story that you know, my neighbor had a birthday party, and it’s a pool party and I wasn’t invited. And she was in my class. And all my classmates were there and so they actually saw that I live next door and they walked over to my house. And the mother of the little girl was like What’s going on? Like, Why did everyone leave? And my mom was like, Well, you didn’t invite my daughter. So now her classmates are coming to say hello. And the mother tried to fix the situation by inviting me. And my mom was like, No, like you’re not going. So that’s one of the stories that I like to tell because it shows how great of a mom I have. And speaking of my mom, I just want to tell you this one other story about her. You know, as I said, I grew up in a large family, and I was the only one with a disability in my family. And I asked her why that was. And she told me this beautiful story about the spine being like a magical tree. And she told me that it had these little magical leaves called nerves that help you move your arms and legs, and I’m missing some of my magical leaves. But then she went on to say that even though I can’t walk, that I can do anything else that I put my mind to. So that just gives you a little bit of a glimpse of the good and the bad of my earlier years. So
**Michael Hingson ** 06:13
to skip around a little bit. Oh, I don’t know how long ago. How long ago was that? Roughly? That may be giving away your age, but I’ll ask anyway.
**Kat Magnoli ** 06:24
How long ago was which one? Well,
**Michael Hingson ** 06:29
so sorry. So let me do it this way. How old are you?
**Kat Magnoli ** 06:34
I am 39 years. Okay.
**Michael Hingson ** 06:37
Okay, great. Yeah, so, so now, so the birthday party and all that stuff took place? Roughly 30 years ago,
**Kat Magnoli ** 06:45
about 30 years ago. Okay. So here’s, here’s
**Michael Hingson ** 06:49
the question. Do you think that that kind of behavior would still be exhibited today?
**Kat Magnoli ** 07:00
Um, I can’t speak for all parents. So I don’t know. But I can say this. I think that there’s a really wonderful movement going on in society, where the media, and literature and all that is really starting to embrace the disability community more than they did, let’s say, 30 years ago? No, I think that there’s more education about the disability community out there. And I think that that’s helping make bullying maybe less, hopefully, I mean, I don’t know, I can’t really say, Yeah,
**Michael Hingson ** 07:45
you know, I think things from my perspective, I think things are better, but, and the but is that it’s all about education. And there are a lot of people who still really haven’t decided that disabilities are not something that makes us less than they are. And so it does depend on the individual. I think that there has been some progress. But we have, I think, a long way to go. Yes, I agree. And so that’s something that we we have to work on. I know that as a person who is blind, I continue to see lots of challenges. And I think that the reality is that we emphasize eyesight, so much in our lives, that we view people who, who don’t have eyesight, or whose eyesight is less than perfect. We view those people as less than we are, we still haven’t dropped the expression visually impaired. And that’s got so many negative connotations, because visually, we’re not different, because we’re blind. But the professionals adopted that long time ago. And we continue to see impaired, well, we’re not impaired, you know, you’re not mobility impaired, you use a wheelchair, you’re in a wheelchair. But as your mom pointed out, that doesn’t make you impaired or less than anyone else. Because while you can’t walk, there are short people who can’t do the things that taller people can do. And even tall people can’t necessarily do all the things in the same easy way that some short people can do because they have to fit into smaller places sometimes, or whatever the case happens to be. And what we don’t really understand is that disability is not a lack of ability, but rather it’s a characteristic. And we all have it in one way or another.
**Kat Magnoli ** 09:39
I am 100% on board with what you’re saying. And another thing that I like to reiterate, it’s kind of in the same sense of what you’re saying is that the disability community is actually a community that anyone can join at any time because someone can wake up and they can be blind or someone can wake up and get into an accident, and then be in a wheelchair or someone can go dead, you know, maybe listening to too much loud music throughout their life, whatever the case may be it or just like a gradual thing that happens as you get older, you know. And so it’s it’s not something that’s so taboo as maybe society has made it out to be throughout the years, because it really is like the most common thing that it’s it’s the only minority that anyone can join, you know?
**Michael Hingson ** 10:39
Yeah. Well, and I would submit actually, something slightly different. I agree with you. But what I also would say is that the reality is, every person with eyesight has a disability. And I’ve talked about it on this podcast before, the issue is that in 1878, Thomas Edison invented the electric light bulb. While Why did he do that? He did that so that people with eyesight would have light on demand and would be able to function when it would otherwise be dark at night, or whatever. And so over the years, we’ve put so much emphasis on developing the technology, that light is around us pretty much all the time. But the but the other part about it is until it’s not like if you’re in a building, and there’s a power failure, you have to go scrambling whoever you are for a phone or a flashlight or something to turn on the light. And if you can’t find one, you’re in a generally a world of hurt, because of the fact that it’s dark, and you can’t see what to do. So every sighted person has the disability of being light dependent, whether they like it or not. And technology has mostly covered it up. But it doesn’t change the fact that the disability is still there. We just as a society don’t like to acknowledge that, because light is so readily available most of the time.
**Kat Magnoli ** 12:04
That is fascinating. I never really even thought of that. I definitely got Wow, that’s amazing. See, that proves my point that you don’t even have to go through an accident or anything that I just mentioned, like, just take away. Something that helps you enhance that sense. And that sense is no longer there. So it’s really interesting what you just said, I’m fascinated by it,
**Michael Hingson ** 12:37
we’ve got to get to the point where we recognize that disability does not mean a lack of ability. You know, people say well, but disability starts with this well, so does discretion. So it is it mean, a lack of question, whatever that is, or, you know, any number of things just doesn’t need to be a negative term. And we’ve got to grow up to recognize that as a as a society, I understand that people with eyesight do have advantages, in some ways, because the world is being created around what they have access to that a lot of us don’t, but that doesn’t mean that we’re less than they, whether it’s a wheelchair or whatever,
**Kat Magnoli ** 13:19
of course, of course, 100%. And actually, just to keep going on this topic for a second, I read an amazing book called no pity. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it.
**Michael Hingson ** 13:32
I haven’t. But that’s okay, go here. One of the things
**Kat Magnoli ** 13:36
that they stress in the story, and it’s not only a story, it’s actually like a it’s a book that talks about the entire history of the disability rights movement. And one of the things that they stressed in it is that disability no longer exists when you make things accessible to us. So for example, me, if, if there’s a ramp, and there’s a button for the door, I no longer have a disability because I can get into any building, if those things make it accessible for me. For for instance, for you, if there’s Braille, your disability goes away, because you’re able to understand and communicate in a in a better way by being able to read, you know, the bumps, and the Braille signage. So you can know where to go in a building, let’s say like the elevator. And so I think that that’s a really cool concept that disability is kind of like perception only because if you make the world more accessible, then no one really has a disability. That’s the flip side of it all. And
**Michael Hingson ** 15:02
that’s the real point. Right? Yeah. Yeah. And that’s and that’s that way. So are you, quadriplegic or paraplegic? paraplegic? So So you see, you can hit people upside the head if they start getting too and setting them up people with disabilities write to you.
**Kat Magnoli ** 15:23
I tried to be very nice and to educate first. Yeah. But if they don’t listen, then I might have to run over a tower to my
**Michael Hingson ** 15:33
wife, when sometimes we’ve gone to places even like Disneyland, although it’s been a while. Got so very frustrated, because being in a chair, and she also was a para. We could be talking and sitting somewhere or just walking along and people just jump over the foot rests rather than having the consideration to walk around. Because they’re in such a hurry to get somewhere. People are people are amazing.
**Kat Magnoli ** 16:00
Yeah, yeah, I that’s one of my biggest pet peeves. Another one is people just wheeling me up a ramp, like as I’m wheeling, and then someone of total stranger will come up behind me and think that they’re doing a kind gesture. Yeah. And you start pushing me up the ramp, and it’s scary, it startles me, you know, it scares me. So I always flip it out, you know, to the other side, where I’m like, How would someone feel if I just like started pushing them on their backside, and like toiling them to essentially walk faster, you know, like, that’s not very nice, I wouldn’t be able to do that I’d probably get arrested if I did that. Because you can’t just put your hands on someone’s backside and start busting them. So it’s the same concept, people think that they’re doing something nice, or that they’re, you know, you know, not bothering us by like asking us to move over or whatever, I’d rather you say, excuse me, then push me or jump over me. You know, I’d rather you acknowledge me and be like, Excuse me, I need to get through, like, find a way to do it? Or
**Michael Hingson ** 17:13
do you need help? I’d be glad to push you up the ramp if you would like I mean, but the point is to ask
**Kat Magnoli ** 17:19
exactly the point is to ask, it’s really not that hard. No,
**Michael Hingson ** 17:24
it’s not that hard at all. So I’m curious. What do you think of the truncated domes, all the dots that go across driveways, and so on to warn people when you’re at the bottom of a ramp or, or going into a street? They’ve put those out saying blind people need to have those warnings and so on? What do you think of that as a person in a wheelchair?
**Kat Magnoli ** 17:53
Well, let me say this, if it is good for people with blindness, then I think it’s necessary. However, for a person with a disability. Again, it can be kind of a hazard almost, I will say, because, let’s say one of my wheels, you know, gets stuck in between one of the bumps, I could fall forward, if it’s a quarterly made structure, you know, I could fall forward. So for me, it can sometimes be a hazard. And it has been in the past. However, if it’s good for people with blindness, then I’m all for it. And I’m accepting of it. And that’s all that I’m gonna say about it.
**Michael Hingson ** 18:40
The the place where it becomes valuable is not so much on ramps, or even in train stations, because if a blind person is using a cane properly, they’ll be able to detect the edge of a train well of a train track or if the tracks are dropped down, like in a lot of subway stations or whatever. The the comment is where you have to have it so blind people know that they’re coming to the edge. That’s what the cane does. Although a lot of people don’t necessarily use their canes well, so the compromise was to put those those dots in, but I know my wife hated them because it just shook her violently every time we went over them.
**Kat Magnoli ** 19:30
Yeah, I definitely have noticed with my friends who have spinal cord injury that tend to have spasms below the waist, that it does trigger, you know, well for her more shook her neck and very sad and you know, yeah, well, it’s
**Michael Hingson ** 19:48
it’s it’s one of those things that that there are places where where they can help if you’ve got a very flat curb, not even a curb cut or a ramp but you It’s such a gradual ramp down that you don’t really notice it and the curb is, or the entrance to the street is flat so that you don’t really have a noticeable demarcation between the sidewalk and the street. There is a place where it’s relevant to put something but yeah, it’s it’s interesting, everyone has different challenges and some people love the the dots, and some people don’t. And it’s always a matter of trying to figure out the best way to make it as accessible and usable by the most or by most everyone and people have to adopt and adapt to different ways of doing stuff.
**Kat Magnoli ** 20:40
Well, I’m actually going to flip the question and ask you something now if that’s okay.
**Michael Hingson ** 20:47
Oh, sure. This is a conversation.
**Kat Magnoli ** 20:51
What is your opinion about ramps as a person who’s blind? Does it hinder you or help you in any kind of way, not affect you at all? Well,
**Michael Hingson ** 21:02
if it’s a ramp, that’s why I’m mentioned the very flat curbs. So from from my perspective, I can go either way ramps or stairs. However, it is my belief that ramps are very important. So I don’t mind at all having ramps, but I don’t believe that ramps enhance my ability to walk around. Because I’ll use a cane or a guide dog and I will go where I need to go. And if there’s a ramp, it’s fine. If there are stairs, that’s fine. And I realized that stairs generally take up less room than ramps. But having been married to a lady in a wheelchair for 40 years, I totally value ramps and have never had a problem with ramps so ramps don’t bother me at all.
**Kat Magnoli ** 21:53
Okay, that’s interesting.
**Michael Hingson ** 21:57
So on I am a firm believer that that ramps need to be available not just in the back of a building or whatever, but they should be readily available. So that people in chairs are people who need ramps. people with strollers just older people can walk in the front entrance of a building just as easily as I can. Even though I can walk up the stairs, so I’m fine with ramps.
**Kat Magnoli ** 22:27
Okay, well, thank you. That’s, that’s very interesting to hear.
**Michael Hingson ** 22:31
So it is kind of one of the things that that we we all do deal with. But I think I’m what I’m really surprised that is and we watched. We watched my wife passed away last November. So it’s just me now. But as I tell people, she’s up there somewhere. And if I misbehave, I’m going to hear about it. So I gotta be a nice guy.
**Kat Magnoli ** 22:56
Well, I’m so sorry for your loss.
**Michael Hingson ** 22:58
Well, it’s been 40 years. And as I say, the spirit sometimes moves faster than the body and her body just finally kind of gave out and it is what we have to deal with. But, you know, the, the other the other side of that is that, you know, I learned a lot from her and having 40 years of memories and marriages is a good thing. And it it helped broaden perspectives in a lot of different ways. So I certainly have no complaints about it.
**Kat Magnoli ** 23:33
That is so beautiful. Oh my goodness, you’re gonna make me cry.
**Michael Hingson ** 23:39
Well, like I said, she’s somewhere and if I misbehave, I’m going to hear about it. So I will, I will continue to just be a decent person and behave well.
**Kat Magnoli ** 23:50
That’s all. That’s all that all of us can do.
**Michael Hingson ** 23:54
Yeah, that’s about all there is right? That’s all we can do. Yeah. So tell me a little bit more about you. You grew up did you go to college? Yes,
**Kat Magnoli ** 24:06
I did. I actually got my AAA degree. My associate’s in arts degree for exceptional student education. I really wanted to be a teacher for children with disabilities. However due to my health that ended up not being the case. But I still have my degree which is great.
**Michael Hingson ** 24:35
What do you think of the the terminology Exceptional Children?
**Kat Magnoli ** 24:41
Um, I think a lot of the time we spend too much time nitpicking. Yeah. At terminology. I think whatever a person is comfortable with is very like subjective. Like there are some people that don’t like People First language they don’t like the term, people with disabilities, they like, disabled
**Michael Hingson ** 25:07
**Kat Magnoli ** 25:08
I personally do not I like people first language, I want to be seen as a person that has a disability. So I think it’s just all it’s very subjective. It’s however you feel. But, you know, the school district felt like it was a better transition to go from special ed, or special education, to exceptional student education.
**Michael Hingson ** 25:37
And, you know, the only thing I would say about that is that, and I agree with you about People First, by the way, but I also think that we have to look at terminology in the light of what is it conveyed to people about us, like I mentioned, visually impaired. The fact of the matter is that continues to promote the concept that we’re less. So a much better term such as like, happens with people who are deaf, it’s not deaf or hearing impaired, it’s deaf or hard of hearing, and that is what the deaf community likes, with good reason. And so, visually impaired isn’t nearly as progressive and as helpful attitudinally and socially as blind or low vision. And so I think there is some relevance to recognizing that terminology can be part of the problem, rather than always being part of the solution.
**Kat Magnoli ** 26:40
I 100% agree. And that’s why I think that as a person within the community, when someone approaches you, whether it’s you or AI, it’s our obligation to educate them and let them know how we want to be referred to. Because again, there might be some people in your community that don’t mind the term visually impaired. Maybe that’s how they refer to themselves. There are and there are. And so I again, I think it’s really about how we educate others on how we want to be addressed. Well,
**Michael Hingson ** 27:22
that’s part of it. And the other part is, and I’ve had discussions with some people say, I don’t I find visually impaired, I’m impaired, I’m visually impaired, until they think it through, or until somebody talks with him about it. And gets them to really explore what they’re saying, when they say impaired, for example. And that’s part of it. And so in the blindness world, we haven’t grown up yet, nearly as much as, say, people who are deaf have in terms of not being hearing impaired, but rather hard of hearing. So the fact is there there are people who are blind, and I’ve had discussions with them who say, No, I’m visually impaired, and I point out the issue. And if I get them to think about it, they usually come back and say, I never thought about it that way. Just like we talked about earlier, every person on this planet has a disability. And the fact is that most people are light dependent. And that’s his disability, too.
**Kat Magnoli ** 28:30
That’s so true. Yeah. And actually, it’s interesting, because a few years ago, I had the privilege of making friends with a man named Daniel Ruis, who is a big advocate for the ADEA, which is, for all of you that might not know is the Americans with Disabilities Act law. And so he makes places accessible, so on and so on. And one day, we got into a discussion about the word handicap. And I never knew what that term actually means. And I don’t know if you know, either. Maybe you do. But for all your listeners, I just want to say that handicap actually means hand in cat, which was, which is a symbol of saying that people with disabilities are needy, and we’re beggars and we’re, you know, it’s just it has such a horrible connotation to it. So that’s one term that I will not accept to be called. Whenever someone says, like, oh, handicap parking, I’m like, No, it’s accessible parking. You know, like I make that’s the only thing that I’m like a stickler on, is handicap and also crippled. I don’t like the term cripples. I think that that is something that degrades me. Again, I go by people first language and that just really is, you know, the case for me.
**Michael Hingson ** 29:57
Well, and I think it’s a matter of of really people just accepting that we’re as equal as they. And unfortunately, though some of the language doesn’t necessarily imply that and that’s what we really have to deal with, which is why anything that utilizes the word impaired is a problem. But people have to grow to deal with that in their own way. And that’s something that we just will have to work on over time. And hopefully, people will come to recognize it is a problem, just like when we talk about race. You know, we talk about African Americans or our people who are black, as opposed to other terminology that nowadays, it is frowned upon to say that, in most cases, although black people sometimes use that terminology amongst themselves, but by the same token, we need to recognize that there are words that promote negative and less than stellar attitudes in a lot of different ways. So it’s, it’s a challenge. Well,
**Kat Magnoli ** 31:11
going back to something I had said earlier, when you asked me Do I think that the same kind of incident would happen now in relation to you know, how I grew up? I think the more and more we are exposed in the media, in a positive light, through books, through movies, through TV, through songs, whatever the case may be, I think, through politics, I think that the world will kind of shift its perception, the more they see what we can do.
**Michael Hingson ** 31:49
I agree. We need to be more involved in the conversation. And I think more people need to help bring us into the conversation and talk about us or talk with us. And it’s a slow process, because changing a societal attitude like that is is not a simple thing. And is a is a challenge for a lot of people because they’ve grown up thinking something totally different. And now we’re saying no, you really need to change that. That just doesn’t happen overnight.
**Kat Magnoli ** 32:24
Yeah, it’s interesting when Coda won in the, in the Oscars, I asked my friend, same as Mark McGwire. how he felt about it, because he’s a person living with deafness. And he was like, so I didn’t win. He’s like, I don’t care. I thought it was like such a tremendous thing. The disability community and someone living with deafness was like, okay, you know, like, he didn’t acknowledge it as like this huge thing as maybe I did. Well, but
**Michael Hingson ** 33:03
I spoke. First thing, I spoke at a conference later that same year, a conference on inclusion here in California for one of the county departments of education, and had occasion to interact with several people who are very active in the deaf community. And of course, needless to say, they loved it. So, yeah, it’s different for different people. Yeah, exactly. So you got an AAA degree, and then what did you go off and do with yourself.
**Kat Magnoli ** 33:34
And then, like I mentioned, my, my health kind of took a turn for the worse that I had developed kidney failure and was on dialysis. And this was actually during the time that I was still going to school. So when you’re studying to be a teacher, you have to do what’s called clinical hours, which means that you go into a school and you kind of shadow the teacher, and you learn from her by interacting with the kids grading papers, doing things like that. And one of the places that I did this was at a school called cacher LD, which is a school for children within the autism spectrum, and other learning disabilities. And that’s really what inspired me to become an advocate because one thing that I didn’t mention earlier is that with all the bullying that I had endured at a young age, it kind of actually depleted the message of the magical tree for me, and made me feel like maybe there is something wrong with me. So when I got the chance to be around these kids with disabilities, and really see their inner strength and see how amazing they were, it helped me re accept my own disability at the age of 2420. 85 So that’s when I started to think, Okay, if this teaching thing is not going to happen for me, because, you know, my health is not allowing me to dedicate the time that’s needed for this, how else can I help the disability community? So one day, I’m sitting in a pool, and I’m noticing that there’s two children who are quote, unquote, able bodied or non disabled, whatever term you like. And they were staring at me, they were trying to figure out how I got in the pool for my wheelchair. And one of the kids actually said that he felt sorry for me. I was so sad that he would feel sorry for me that it dawned on me how I could help be an advocate. And I thought, like, after much thinking, I was like, I want to educate children about disability, because they’re the ones most curious about it. So how do I do this? And then I thought about something that I’ve always loved to do, which is write. And that’s when I decided to write a children’s book called The Adventures of cat girl, which is about a superhero in a wheelchair, and she helps kids who are being bullied. And
**Michael Hingson ** 36:21
you’ve written several books now happened to as I recall, yes,
**Kat Magnoli ** 36:25
there are four stories in the cat girl series, they each touch on a different kind of bullying. So we have bullying, children and wheelchairs, bullying children who are deaths, bullying children who are overweight and racial bullying. Those are the four topics that I cover in my cat girl series. And then I have another story called Pete, the private eye, who’s actually a blind detective, and he uses his magical cane to help him solve mysteries of lost objects.
**Michael Hingson ** 37:03
Hmm. Well, you know, all I have to say is that if you ever decide to do a picture book on the disability of politicians, don’t worry, they deserve bullying. Just just I love that I love to tell people, I’m an equal opportunity abuser. We don’t do politics on unstoppable mindset, because I’ll pick on all of them. And rightfully so. But you know, but that’s your voice, especially now is right. So do you, do you self publish? Or did you self publish? Or do you have a publisher for the books.
**Kat Magnoli ** 37:44
So when it came to the adventures of cat girl series, I went through my grandparents, who at the time had owned an educational toy business called Dexter educational toys. And when I came to them with this idea of my book series, my grandfather was a little hesitant. But my grandmother jumped on the idea. And she really, you know, used her resources of a printing company that she was in affiliation was to help publish the book. And with Pete, the private eye, I used another company called Print ninja, they’re in China. And they do a fabulous job with printing as well.
**Michael Hingson ** 38:38
That’s great. Do you have any other books coming out in the future?
**Kat Magnoli ** 38:44
I hope so. I do have a lot of ideas. I have some crossover stories of cat girl and Pete, that I really would love to, you know, have them meet in this story and work together and use both her magical wheelchair and his magic cane. And just kind of have fun, you know? Maybe finding loss items for bullies.
**Michael Hingson ** 39:09
Well, there you go.
**Kat Magnoli ** 39:12
That can be the crossover story.
**Michael Hingson ** 39:16
So you sent me several photos. I’m assuming some of those are the book covers.
**Kat Magnoli ** 39:23
Yes, I did send you one photo that has all four cat girl. book covers plus the cat girl puppet. Threes
**Michael Hingson ** 39:35
I ask is that all I see are titles that say like img something so I don’t. I don’t get a description. That’s okay. But I’m glad you did because I would have asked you to send them if you hadn’t. So that’s great, because we want to make sure they get into the podcast notes and so on because I want other people to read the books needless to say, thank you. So that’s kind of important to be able to do Who? But you know, so you’ve written them. So did you. So what did you do for a job along the way? Did you go into teaching? Did you start advocating? To to start your own company? What did you do?
**Kat Magnoli ** 40:17
Well, first and foremost, my number one passion is my book. So I’ve dedicated a lot of the time of my advocacy, to reading to children and selling my books to schools, and at different events throughout Florida, and in other states. And then from there, because I did still have a desire to be a teacher, I did some tutoring for about a year to through a girl that I knew named soudha that I had met in college. So I did get to do some teaching, later on in my advocacy. And then, you know, as I grew as an advocate, different organizations started to reach out to me to do work with them. So for a while, I was working at the Center for Independent Living. And then I worked a little bit for ShakeAlert. Miami, which is a wonderful organization that helps people get with disabilities get the chance to go sailing, and kayaking and canoeing. And so I have had some, like, odd jobs here and there, but all have to do with disability and advocacy in some way. But my main focus is my books and public speaking.
**Michael Hingson ** 41:36
You’ve definitely kept active. Yes.
**Kat Magnoli ** 41:40
So calls me the Energizer Bunny,
**Michael Hingson ** 41:43
that are you go? Well, so cat girl was in a wheelchair is in a wheelchair, right?
**Kat Magnoli ** 41:50
Yes, she is.
**Michael Hingson ** 41:51
So did you involve in any way in any of the books dealing with autism? I haven’t you since you’ve had a lot of interest in that and exposure to it. I
**Kat Magnoli ** 42:03
have not had the chance to write a story about autism yet. I really want because the children that started my journey into advocacy to fall into the autism spectrum. I want to be as sensitive and correct with it as possible. So I want to do more research and make sure that I do that immunity, that justice that it deserves when I write about it.
**Michael Hingson ** 42:34
We’ve come a long way with autism. I know I’ve talked to several people on the podcast here who discovered that they were on this they say the Autism Autism Spectrum. But they discovered it in their 30s and in their 40s because we just didn’t really know enough about it earlier on to recognize it and diagnose.
**Kat Magnoli ** 42:56
Yeah, yeah. And to be honest, you know, sometimes parents are hesitant, even if there are clear day signs, you know that their child is in the autism spectrum. Sometimes parents can be hesitant to get that diagnosis, and then the person will make that decision later on in life to finally get the test that helps them you know, be diagnosed, right?
**Michael Hingson ** 43:30
Or it just never came up. And they never no one ever thought about it. But yeah, it is a challenge. And I think that that’s, uh, you bring up a good point in general that a lot of times, parents of children with disabilities don’t really want to necessarily deal with it either. And it’s mostly because they haven’t themselves become educated. Your parents were fairly unusual. And same with mine. The doctors told them when it was discovered I was blind at the age of four months that they should just send me to a home and they said absolutely not. He can grow up to do whatever he chooses to do. But parents that are willing to really step out like that are much rarer than we would like to think sometimes.
**Kat Magnoli ** 44:17
You know, I’ve been beyond fortunate to have the mother that I have, and I am grateful for every single day of my life. Because my mother was unaware of my having Spinal Bifida. throughout her entire pregnancy. It did not show up on any ultrasound that she had had during the nine months that she was carrying me and so when I was born, that was the day that her my father had found out that I indeed had spinal bifida. And she always tells me the story because as I mentioned, I’m the youngest of seven So she would read a lot of medical books every time she was pregnant. And she always skipped over Spinal Bifida. It was like, Oh, that’ll never happen. And when it did happen, she didn’t feel sorry for herself. She immediately when she came home from the hospital, you know, started doing research started calling different organizations like, March of Dimes, and all these other organizations that can help her, you know, raise me in the best way that she could. So I’m just very, very fortunate to have a mother like I do. Yeah,
**Michael Hingson ** 45:37
she learned and she dealt with it. Which is, which is great. And presumably, she’s still alive and, and helping. She’s
**Kat Magnoli ** 45:48
72 years old, and she’s the one who’s truly the Energizer Bunny. She’s unstoppable.
**Michael Hingson ** 45:56
Well, then we need to get her on the podcast. It’s good to have unstoppable people on the podcast.
**Kat Magnoli ** 46:01
She’s actually sitting right next to me, but she’s shaking her head know that Oh, come
**Michael Hingson ** 46:06
**Kat Magnoli ** 46:10
Can you just wave? Please?
**Michael Hingson ** 46:12
Nope, she’s, well, I’m not gonna see your wave. So that’s okay.
**Kat Magnoli ** 46:18
To everyone. Same way? Yeah.
**Michael Hingson ** 46:21
Well, it’s neat to have a very supportive person. And that goes both ways. Because you give back and I’m sure help her and a lot of different ways. And just the very fact that you do what you do. Totally validates everything that she’s done.
**Kat Magnoli ** 46:40
Yeah, yeah, I actually just recently got a proclamation from Palmetto Bay, which is a neighboring town from Sunny Isles Beach. And they gave me a proclamation to honor Spinal Bifida Awareness Month, which is within the month of October, and my entire speech was dedicated to my mom, pretty much. I mean, I spoke for like four minutes, and three and a half of it was all about how wonderful she is.
**Michael Hingson ** 47:17
And rightfully so no matter what she thinks or says. I agree. Like I said, moms who are and parents in general, who are that much risk takers are very rare in, at least in my experience, and from everything I’ve observed. So it’s great to have that kind of really wonderful person in your life. So that’s great. Now did even though you don’t you haven’t dealt with an autism an autistic person yet, in your books? Did they have some involvement in inspiring you to write the books, they
**Kat Magnoli ** 47:59
were 100% the inspiration because while I was having the privilege to teach them, I saw how they were able to handle episodes of bullying far better than I did when I was a child. And it just was so inspiring to me. And I was like, wow, they have a strange that I did not have at 910 11 and 12 years old. And so it just really, it really did inspire me a lot. And they were part of the reason other than the two children in the, in the pool that had the curiosity about me. If I’d put it all together, it was like, a melting pot of inspiration for me, of why I wrote the adventures of capital.
**Michael Hingson ** 48:47
I was at an IKEA store in California, once in a young man came up and said, I’m sorry. And I said, why? And he said, because you can’t see. So I’ve experienced the same sort of thing that you did. And we could we didn’t get to have much of a discussion about it because his mother dragged him away. Don’t don’t talk to that man. You know, you shouldn’t do that. And people miss out on great education opportunities. Sometimes. Needless to say,
**Kat Magnoli ** 49:13
yeah, yeah. And that’s another thing that I really try to stress to parents that it’s okay for your child to talk to me. It’s okay. For them to ask what happened? It doesn’t offend me if anything, them staring and the parent pulling them away is what offends me. Yeah, that that hurts my feelings more so then the child’s coming up to me and asking me about my chair, you know, and asking me what happened. I would much rather that and so I’ve actually gotten into the habit of Do you mind like asking the parents do you mind if I tell your daughter or your son what happened? They seem to be Interested in my chair? Yeah.
**Michael Hingson ** 50:04
And, you know, I, I experienced a lot of that or, and sometimes actually promote it to get conversation started. A lot of times I’ll be walking somewhere with, with my guide dog and parents say oh, don’t, don’t, don’t go up to that man, the dog might bite you and all that, and I’ll stop. And I’ll almost block their way and said, let me let me talk to you about what guide dogs are. And then I’ll also take the harness off, which is the thing that the dogs love the most, because then they know they’re not working. And the last thing they want to do is to avoid getting attention, especially from kids. So we get lots of opportunities. And when I go to speak to schools, it’s always fun after the speech to take the harness off and let the kids come up. And the dogs have figured out that if they lay down and stretch out every which way they can, as far as they can, and maximize petting space, they’ll get more kids to pay attention to them, and they love it.
**Kat Magnoli ** 51:06
Oh, that’s so cool. Yeah, they,
**Michael Hingson ** 51:09
they enjoy it a lot. So it’s fun to do. That’s wonderful. So do you know you’ve you’ve started your own organizations to help with advocacy, right?
**Kat Magnoli ** 51:23
Yes, I, within the last two and a half years started, capital and friends Inc. It is a 501 C three that just helps educate people about the importance of inclusion through literature and my public speaking. And it just gives me a chance to reach a larger audience.
**Michael Hingson ** 51:48
How far have you traveled to be involved in doing speeches and do public speaking,
**Kat Magnoli ** 51:52
I actually went to the American Association school for children who are deaf. And that was in Atlanta. And it was really, really amazing. It was such an incredible experience. All the kids were signing their questions to me, which unfortunately, I don’t know, sign language. So there was an interpreter there. But it was just such an amazing experience that I never forget that and I’m so grateful to have done. And I also got to go to New York where unfortunately, I couldn’t be at the school because it was during like COVID regulations still. But I did a zoom session for a school in the district that I grew up in, which is Putnam Valley School District. So that was really cool to be able to do. And I’ve actually done that two times since then, where I’ve done zoom sessions for them. So I’ve been able to reach different schools in different states as well as make a pretty good impact in in my community as well. Well,
**Michael Hingson ** 53:14
it’s, I think, extremely important for us to recognize that one of the best things that we can do is to help teach and educate and I didn’t tell you this, but when I was in college, I also went through the University of California, Irvine. College of teaching, so I have my secondary teaching credential as well. So I, I never did teach professionally as a teacher in that sense of the word. But I ended up being very involved in sales. And I believe that that the best salespeople are also teachers as well, because that’s what they should really be doing. Rather than trying to force a product on someone, they should be educating people, and helping them come to the best decision for whatever they need. And that’s a philosophy that has worked really well. But I love teaching and after September 11. For me, I decided to take up a career of speaking and so on, because if I could help people move on from September 11 and teach them about blindness and disabilities and such then it was a worthwhile thing. And if it changes one person is all worthwhile.
**Kat Magnoli ** 54:25
That’s such an amazing advice and an amazing perspective. And I could not agree more. I mean, when I first started this, I was like, You know what, I want the whole crowd to hang on my every word. Now it’s not so much like that. For me. I just get so excited when I can lock eyes with one child, or one person in the crowd and I know that they’re really paying attention and they’re really being impacted by either my the stories that I’ve written or my personal story, whatever is resonating with them is, is so important to me.
**Michael Hingson ** 55:07
What’s the most interesting question that any child has asked you when you’ve spoken like that? Um, we all have those stories, I’m sure.
**Kat Magnoli ** 55:21
I feel like they ask the same questions over and over again, no matter where I am, which is always, how do you get up in the bed? Like, out of bed in the morning? How do you brush your teeth? How do you take a shower? How do you get in and out of the car? How do you do these things? And I’m just so those kinds of questions I find to be the most fun to answer. The one that I think is so important. Let me rephrase that, because those are important questions to answer as well, because it’s educating people about my daily life and how I get around from point A to point B. But the the subject matter that I find to be most interesting when they talk about it is when they start talking about episodes of bullying that they went through, and then we can start opening up that conversation. So yeah, yeah. Yeah.
**Michael Hingson ** 56:23
Well, and and it’s fun. I love speaking to children, because they are uninhibited. And they don’t hesitate to ask questions. Once you start getting them engaged at all, they will, they will ask anything. And if we can have a session and the parents aren’t around, it really works out a whole lot better, because they will, they will become engaged and they’ll ask questions I remember. And I’ve talked about it here a couple of times, I spoke to a, an elementary school. And this third grade boy got up after I spoke, because I opened it for questions. And his question was, how do blind people have sex? So there you go.
**Kat Magnoli ** 57:11
I have not been asked that by a child. But I have been asked by adults. Yeah. wanted to take me out on dates.
**Michael Hingson ** 57:20
Well, there you go. Opportunity Knocks Well, for me when he asked that I am not dumb, right. I just said
**Kat Magnoli ** 57:28
for the background noise.
**Michael Hingson ** 57:29
That’s okay. I I’m not done when I was asked that. I just said the same way everybody else does. And if you want to know more, go ask your parents because I wasn’t going to get into that.
**Kat Magnoli ** 57:39
Yes, that is a very smart answer.
**Michael Hingson ** 57:45
But for as far as you you know, two guys wanted to take you out on on dates. There’s opportunity, maybe? Yeah,
**Kat Magnoli ** 57:51
I mean, when this was mostly in my 20s, where people wouldn’t even ask my name before they asked, Can you have sex? I mean, I just was like, Hi, my name is Katherine. And yes, I can.
**Michael Hingson ** 58:09
Yeah. And if you want to know more, that’s a different story. Zach. Ah, people are interesting, aren’t they? Yes. But you know, we we cope. And we, we learn. And hopefully we do get to help teach them. And that’s what’s really important about the whole thing. So tell me about winning Miss wheelchair Florida.
**Kat Magnoli ** 58:38
It was really amazing. It was actually a funny story. Because I had been in the top three, two times before, I had gotten second runner up and first runner up. So the third year, I actually wasn’t going to participate. I was like, okay, clearly, I’m not going to win. I’m just going to take a break from this. But the state coordinator actually reached out to me like a day before the application was due to be a contestant. And she was like, Why haven’t I received your application? I’m like, oh, because I’m not doing it this year. She’s like, Yes, you are, you have to do it. So I was like, Alright, fine, I’ll do it. But if I lose again, like I’m never doing it again. So So I ended up going and it’s an amazing weekend, where girls with all different physical disabilities come together. And we do workshops. We do you know, judging with it’s just so amazing. And so I was really happy to be a part of it again. But I went into it not thinking that I was going to win or place in the top three or anything like that. So I went in with a different perspective of just enjoying the moment And that’s interesting because I ended up enjoying it so much that I ended up Miss messing up my speech. And so I really thought I wasn’t going to win. So when they announced the, you know, second runner up and first runner up, and I wasn’t called, I was like, Okay, I didn’t make it even to the top three. So when they said my name, my mouth dropped, and I started crying for like, a good five minutes. And I was trying to speak because they handed me the microphone. And I honestly couldn’t even tell you what I said, because I was that shocked for wedding. And before they said my name, I actually looked at my mom in the crowd, and I shook my head. No, it’s not me. And at the same time, one of the judges was looking up at me. And she was shaking her head, like, yes, it is you. And I was just so confused as to why she was smiling and shaking her head. So it was just an interesting situation. And then when I did when I got to meet the governor, the former governor, Rick Scott, I got to work alongside the mayor of sunny isles and the mayor of ball Harbor, which is another town and get more beaches accessible in my area. I got to work with the school district, which is Miami Dade school district to have activities for Disability Awareness Month and inclusion week, I had a podcast so it was a really, really busy time for me. And it was a lot of fun. I also got to do a lot of adventurous things. Like go to I fly, which is indoor skydiving, and I got to, you know, just do some really memorable things.
**Michael Hingson ** 1:01:56
So did you do the indoor skydiving? Yes, I did. I would like to do that. I’ve never done it. I’m gonna have to go do it. Some I would love to do that. Yeah,
**Kat Magnoli ** 1:02:05
it’s really, really cool. It’s a very interesting simulation of what skydiving would be like.
**Michael Hingson ** 1:02:13
Yeah, I would like to do it sometime. I’ll have to work that out. Well, so what’s next for you? What are you doing? What are your plans? And where are you headed? What’s your mindset in the world?
**Kat Magnoli ** 1:02:26
Well, currently, I am doing a lot of things. It is Disability Awareness Month and awareness month. So I’ve been making a lot of videos on social media just talking about basically what we’re talking about right now, which is all that we can do. So that’s number one. That’s that’s part of what I’m doing. I’m also doing a lot of different events for my books, to have more of an outreach for them. I am part of the Christopher Reeve Foundation where I’m a regional champion for them, which means that I speak to senators within my state about different laws that the Christopher Reeve Foundation is trying to get passed. So that’s that’s basically what I’m doing. I’m also in addition to it being Disability Awareness Month and Spinal Bifida Awareness Month, it’s also Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which, for whoever does not know people with disabilities are three times as likely to be victims of any kind of abuse. So myself, along with my mentor, Debbie beets are going to be partnering for a workshop with the Christopher Reeve Foundation will end of October, where we’re going to be talking about the intersectionality of abuse and disability. Wow.
**Michael Hingson ** 1:03:59
So you’re definitely keeping busy no doubt about it.
**Kat Magnoli ** 1:04:02
Yes. Oh, and one last thing. I am working currently with semi owls beach to get even more beaches accessible in my town. So that’s the last thing that I’m doing.
**Michael Hingson ** 1:04:16
Well, just one more thing, right? Yeah. Well, this has been a lot of fun if people want to reach out to you and maybe contact you learn more about what you’re doing and so on. How can they do that?
**Kat Magnoli ** 1:04:31
They can actually reach me through my website, kat girl and friends.com
**Michael Hingson ** 1:04:37
Kat is k a t. Yes,
**Kat Magnoli ** 1:04:39
Kat is K a t girl is G I R L and is spelled just as we know A N D friends f r i e n d s.com.com
**Michael Hingson ** 1:04:52
Yeah, okay. Any other contact ways or things that people should know? They
**Kat Magnoli ** 1:05:00
can also just email me at Kat that’s also K A T Magnoli, m a g n o l email@example.com.
**Michael Hingson ** 1:05:13
Wow, a Gmail address without any numbers in it. You must be the first one. Yeah, well, cat, this has been a lot of fun. And I want to just say right now that when you have more adventures and you have whenever you want to come back on and chat some more on unstoppable mindset, I would love to do it. So you just know you have an open invitation. We can talk about it at any time, but I really value you doing this and if you know of anyone else. And likewise, for any of you listening, if you know of anyone who we ought to have as a guest on unstoppable mindset. I’d love to hear about it. You can let me know Kat knows how to reach me but for all of you, just so you know, you can reach me at Michael M i c h a e l h i at accessibe A c c e s s i b e.com. Or go to our podcast page www dot Michael Hingson m i c h a e l h i n g s o n.com/podcast. And we’d love to hear from you love to hear what you think about the episode. And as I said, if you know of anyone that you think we ought to have as a guest, I definitely want to hear from you. We would appreciate you giving us a five star rating, we value your ratings very highly. And I really hope that you like the podcast enough to do that. So once once more, I want to thank you Kat for being here. I’m sorry, you were gonna say? No,
**Kat Magnoli ** 1:06:38
I was gonna say thank you so much for having me, this has been such an amazing conversation. And I can think of so many people that I know who are advocates that would really shine on your show, really have such incredible stories to share. So I will be reaching out to some of them and encouraging them to reach out to you. Because I think that we all should come together and work together and share stories. I think that’s the real way to educate and and build inclusion for the for the world. Last question that I have, when will this be airing. Um, it’s
**Michael Hingson ** 1:07:21
going to be a little while yet because we’ve got a number of podcasts that are out there, but we’ll definitely be sending you an email, unless there’s some need for you to to have it airing at a particular time. But it’ll be a little while yet, but we’ll keep you posted. Okay,
**Kat Magnoli ** 1:07:37
great. Thank you so much. And I hope you guys have a great night
**Michael Hingson ** 1:07:46
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
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