Episode 3 – Mike Hingson Gets Grilled
Since September 11, 2001, Michael Hingson has experienced several life-changing events. From returning to California and a six and a half year tenure as the public face of Guide Dogs for the Blind while traveling the world as a public speaker to helping introduce new technologies to people who happen to be blind. In this podcast episode, Michelle Abraham, herself a podcast host on the AmplifYou podcast discusses in-depth Mike’s philosophy about blindness and how he is working to educate the “non-disabled world” about the truths of blindness, not the myths most people accept. You will learn also about Mike Hingson’s new endeavor to help others learn how to control their fears when unexpected life changes confront them.
Some directories do not show full show notes. For the complete transcription please visit: https://michaelhingson.com/podcast
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 we’re 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 01:20
Welcome to another episode of unstoppable mindset. We’re going to take a little bit different approach today. Usually I introduce the podcast, and then deliver some remarks or provide a speech that I have given or interview someone. But today, Michelle Abraham from amplify you podcast is going to interview me, we’re going to talk about my philosophy of blindness, we’re going to talk about some of the things that have happened, of course, a little bit about the World Trade Center, kind of how I got there, but also what’s happened since. And you’re going to hear about some of the products that I’ve introduced along the way to help blind people, not products that I’ve developed so much as products that I’ve helped bring to the market because of my extensive sales and sales management background. And you’re going to hear just what all is going on now why we have unstoppable mindset where it came from. You’re going to learn about excessive be the company for which I am now the chief vision officer excessively is a company that has a full suite of products that help create websites that are much more usable and accessible to persons with a variety of disabilities. So let’s get right into the interview. And then we will come back a little bit later and talk about it just a bit.
Michelle Abraham 02:48
Hello and welcome everyone. Today I am joined by a New York Times bestselling author and international speaker Michael Hanson. Hi, Michael, how are you doing today?
Michael Hingson 02:56
I’m doing well. Thank you. Glad to be here.
Michelle Abraham 02:59
Awesome. Well, I am thrilled that you’re here to Michael and I want to tell our audience a little bit more about you. So Michael is the New York Times bestselling author and international lecturer. Michael’s also been blind since birth and survived the 911 tax with the help of his guide dog goes out. So the story and this story is the subject of his best selling book Thunder dog. So Michaels been giving lectures and presentations all around the world speaking to influence influential groups, and you’re an ambassador for the National Braille literacy campaign and the federal, a National Federation of the Blind and also an ambassador of the American Humane Association. 2012 hero dog awards. Michael, you’ve done so many presentations, countless TV and Radio appearances. And you’ve just got this message that you’re carrying on. I think this is such a great platform for you to have now podcasts to then explore all these topics. You’re really interested in talking about accessibility and inclusion. And I think this is just a great, a great way to get to know you a little bit better, Michael, so thanks for joining us today.
Michael Hingson 04:05
Glad to be here looking forward to it.
Michelle Abraham 04:08
So Michael, tell us a little bit about your childhood. So you were Where were you born and raised.
Michael Hingson 04:15
I was born in Chicago on the south side no less. And we were I grew up there until I was five my parents didn’t know at first I was blind. It was actually about four months after I was born that my end said to my mom, you know he doesn’t react to sunlight. I wonder if he’s blind or something like that. And they took me to the hospital and sure enough I am I was I was blind because I was born two months premature and I was put in a pure oxygen environment that can cause retinas to malformed it’s a condition in those days that was called retro electro fibro pleasure if people want to learn how to spell that they can get Thunder dog. But later it became known they changed the name to retinopathy of prematurity, which Just maybe a little easier to spell. But the bottom line is it’s the same thing. So the retina didn’t form properly. And so essentially from basic about birth I was was blind. The doctors told my parents sent him to a home, he will never be able to amount to anything blind, blind people can’t grow up and do anything. And he will just take all the love that you have, and that won’t be good for your older son. When my parents said, No, you’re wrong. He can grow up to do whatever he wants, we’re going to take him home so they bucked if you will, the learned medical profession of Chicago, and they took me home, I grew up in Chicago for five years, and dude did all the things that my brother and my cousins who lived next door to us and near us did. And so then we moved to California. My last year in Chicago, I went to kindergarten because kindergarten for kids in Chicago starts at age four. And my parents had worked with other families of blind kids, there were a lot of preemies. It was the baby boomer era. So there were a lot of priests who lost their eyesight. Excuse me. And so there was a special kindergarten class for blind kids. So in that class, I actually learned Braille for the first time and I learned some other skills. But then we moved to California and all that went away, because we moved to an area that was very rural, but 65 miles from Los Angeles, but it might as well have been on the moon for in terms of the kinds of services and so on that were available, there was nothing for blind kids there. And also, kindergarten in California starts when you’re five, so I had to go through another year of kindergarten and did was pretty boring for me, and then I went into first, second and third grade and regular public schools, didn’t get to read books because they weren’t available to me in Braille, no one knew how to get them. And so my parents read me books, and my father taught me math, I was doing algebra in my head, by the time I was six, and learning to do all the things mentally, that other people had the opportunity to do, learning by reading and so on. But I went to school prepared for lessons because my mother and father read them to me the night before. So then, between third and fourth grade, the school district hired a teacher who was knowledgeable about blindness and blind people in blind kids who had been trained in that profession. And there were now several blind children in the area. So I finally in fourth grade got to learn to read Braille again. And I need to explain, growing up, having learned Braille a second time, but having learned Braille, Braille is the means of reading and writing that blind people have. And anyone who is blind, even if you go blind later in life, should learn the basic rudiments of Braille. And kids who are blind or even low vision should learn Braille. Because if you are a child who has low vision, so you can still see, the odds are you won’t ever be able to read as fast or as well, with your eyesight, as you will, if you learn Braille, simply because the strain, the physiological constraints and so on, will not allow you to do with your eyes, what you could do with your fingers and learning Braille. The educational system has not gone that way. And they keep saying, well, blind kids can use recordings and other things. Now they don’t need to learn to read Braille. And my response to that is, if that’s the case, then why do you say to kids need to learn to reprint they can watch cartoons and pictures on television, right? But sighted kids learn to reprint blind kids need to learn to read Braille, and the educational system should support that. And even today, it is so greatly resisted by the educational system, which is so unfortunate, but I grew up learning Braille. And being in public school.
Michael Hingson 09:09
I wanted to go to college and get a degree in physics. And I did I went to the University of California at Irvine. But through most of growing up all the way through high school, there were some programs and books became available, and so things got to be a little better. But still looking back on it. I was tolerated more than probably as embraced as other students. And it wasn’t something that was ever hostile. There were a couple of times that were it was I talked Well, sometimes. There were a couple of times that were, excuse me, a little bit hostile. But mostly, it was okay. The hostility when I started high school, I got my first guide dog and the school superintendent of our high School District decided to enforce a rule of the school that said no live animals were allowed on school buses. That was diametrically opposed to a state law that said that I could take my guide dog on a school bus. And it took, eventually getting the governor of the state of California involved, to shoot down the superintendent on that. It was a great lesson for me. But my father fought that fight. And we succeeded. So it was a lesson to me that I was going to be treated differently. But the reality is blindness wasn’t the problem. It was the attitudes of people. And I have always felt that way
Michelle Abraham 10:36
is that you saw what you are pointing to like an amazing family, and amazing parents that were really, really great supporters and advocates for you. Growing up, do you feel like kids today now who are blind have more opportunities than you would have had when you were growing up?
Michael Hingson 10:53
I think the opportunities are there. But I’m not sure that parents and kids take or have the opportunity always to take them there. One of the things that my parents did, I guess you could say they were risk takers, they let me ride a bike, they let me go out in the neighborhood. I walked to school every day, sometimes with my brother, sometimes I walked alone, I did the same things that other kids did. If there was something that I couldn’t do, we figured out a way around it. But the reality is, of course, there are things that I could do that other people couldn’t do. And we always figure out ways around it. So my parents were very open to allowing me to grow. And I think that today, the attitudes toward blindness have not x have not expanded nor changed nearly as much as they should. I know many kids who still live in very sheltered homes, who don’t really learn to investigate, they don’t get the opportunity to explore. And as a result, they’re really taught that blindness limits them. blindness doesn’t limit them. It’s what people do with blindness that limits people,
Michelle Abraham 12:08
right? I can imagine, right? How I was learning how to ride a bike health a little bit about that experience. So that must have been a little bit scary for you, like you did
Michael Hingson 12:22
it? Well. If it was they didn’t show it. The first time I wrote a bike was actually there was a girl who moved into our neighborhood who wrote a bike and we made friends. And she let me kind of ride hers a little bit, and I got used to doing it. And then my parents got me my own bike when I was I think like seven, we were in a very quiet town. So I could ride my bike around the neighborhood and did and learn to listen learn to hear cars in front of me that were parked on the side of the streets. And I could tell when I was passing that driveway, because the sound was different, I learned to use all the cues around we just like you or any sighted person would do. So it wasn’t magical. Once I learned to stay balanced on the bike, which is what everyone has to do. So it really wasn’t any different. It’s just learning to use different cues.
Michelle Abraham 13:17
That’s great, I love that I love that you’re able to explore and your parents were so open to letting you you know, not limit you from things that you can do and keeping you sheltered it sounds like they’re, you know, that’s made your childhood, you know, more of a of a childhood that is a full of exploration like any other kids childhood, which is awesome.
Michael Hingson 13:35
Well, kids need to explore. And the more we shelter kids and don’t allow them to explore and discover, the harder it is I think in life, we we have to do that. And I think that nowadays, it’s a lot tougher to let kids explore, because there’s so many horrible things going on in the world. But even so, parents need to find ways to let kids explore, they may need to supervise it more and keep an eye on their kids. But by the same token, they still need to let kids explore. And also put rules on kids. There is a there’s a value in rules. And there’s a value in saying this is what you can do. And this is what we’re not going to allow you to do. It’s not a mystery question of can and can’t it’s a question of what we’re going to allow as parents because we are the ones that look out for you. But it’s also what we’re not going to allow you to do for one reason or another. And parents have to be sensible about that. But they’ve got to let kids explore and discover.
Michelle Abraham 14:36
Yeah, for sure. So now moving into when you’re in college, how is that studying in college? What were what were some things that you were able to do that were that got you through college and picking and what made you pick the it was a chemistry that you picked up as a physics as a as a Yeah,
Michael Hingson 14:55
I’ve always been interested in physics and science and so on. My father during World War Two was in communications. And he, when we moved to California was hired to be in the calibration and maintenance is really the wrong word. But the calibration and the development of test equipment used in in Air Force projects, for example, he worked with Neil Armstrong when Neil Armstrong was at Edwards Air Force Base, he worked with people as they were developing some of the early rocket planes and so on. And he was responsible for the a lot of the test equipment and the equipment used on the flights and equipment used to monitor the flight. So I always had an interest in kind of science and so on. Because of what I knew his interest was, I got my first radio kit to put radios together. When I was eight or nine, I think it was it was made by a company called remko. And then I got another radio kit later on to build a radio transmitter and some other things. And then my father and I both got our amateur radio licenses. When I was 14. He could have gotten his at any time. But he waited until I studied and was old enough and got one. And so
Michelle Abraham 16:13
early. That’s early stage podcasting, right?
Michael Hingson 16:15
It really was. Well, so he, and I got our licenses. And we actually had a lot of fun. We each had our own radio transmitters, and we set them up with antennas at opposite ends of the house. And we carried on conversations on some of the radio bands. Because if we were like miles and miles away, and of course everyone knew who we were. And they’re all sitting there going, what are you guys talking about? You know, I talked about the fact that it’s raining outside and he said it wasn’t, and so on. We drove people crazy. But we were we were members of the local ham radio club. Yeah, I still have my license to this day.
Michelle Abraham 16:51
Oh my gosh, that’s so much fun. So fast forward in college, you graduate with a degree in physics? And then what was it? What was the next adventure for you?
Michael Hingson 17:01
Well, for me in college, one of the challenges was that there weren’t books readily available. And so they had to be transcribed. And there literally in those days, there were people who had Braille writing machines who would transcribe by hand, books, they knew mathematics, Braille mathematics, was called the Nemeth Code developed by a guy named Abraham nimeth, who was a blind mathematician. So they would transcribe the books. And so our challenge was that sometimes professors didn’t want to give us information about books six months or more in advance, because we haven’t decided we got to wait till the last minute, see what the latest thing is. And it took a lot of work to convince some professors that there was value and making those decisions earlier. But we we mostly succeeded, there were a couple of courses that I took that I didn’t have the books in time. So I worked with, with people to make sure that I got the information that I needed. My freshman, sophomore thermodynamics course, was was a one that I remember, well, where we didn’t have the right book in time. So that was a challenge, but we got through it. But I went through college, did a lot of the same things that everyone else did went to class every day, got up early, went to the comments, the cafeteria, eat now that I worked at the campus radio station, got my third class radio license so that I could be on the air and so on and later became program director of the station and, again, participated as much as possible in campus activities like anyone else would do. lived in the dorms, and then an on campus apartment. And yes, they graduate, stayed at UC Irvine to get my master’s degree as well as my secondary teaching credential, which was a lot of fun.
Michelle Abraham 18:47
Did you have a guide dog with you, and you’re in university.
Michael Hingson 18:51
I did. Started with my first guide dog Squire who got when I who I got when I was 14, square, and I worked together until night from 1964 to 1973. And then I got my second guy, dog Holland. So Holland, went through physics with me. He and I graduated with a master’s degree. And then I was hired by the National Federation of the Blind. Because of my physics background, I was hired and asked to help with a project that they were developing with a guy named Raymond Kurzweil, Dr. Kurzweil had developed technology that could develop an image of a printed page and recognize the characters on the page so that they can be put in computer readable form. So today, of course, we scan all sorts of things just by taking a picture with an iPhone back in those days, it was a whole lot different. But still, the images could be created in his software didn’t care what the type style was, or if there were a bunch of type styles or printed styles on the page. It would still recognize the characters. He was looking for fun To help perfect the machine, and people have no interest in what he was doing, they said it couldn’t be done. And he said, Yes, it can. And he finally got to somebody in the National Federation of the Blind, who was convinced at least to come and look at it. And he convinced Dr. Jernigan, Dr. Ken Jernigan, the president of the Federation, to let him go up to raise lab, this guy was a guy named Jim Gasol. So Jim went up to the lab in Cambridge. And Jim told Chris Well, I don’t care what you have, that the machine is going to read. I’m not going to be interested unless I can bring all my stuff up whatever I want. And I’m not going to tell you in advance what it is. And if you’re machineries it, then we’re really interested in Ray didn’t put it quite this way. But raise it bring it on. Well, Jim Gasol did, the machine did. And a project was formed where the Federation and Kurzweil works together raised foundation funding to buy five prototype machines at $50,000 each, as well as hiring staff, which was primarily me to literally travel the country for 18 months living out of hotels, setting these 400 pound machines up in places where blind people could use them. And developing programs at all these places to allow people to use the machine, interact with it, read with the machines, and give feedback that we could use to create a final set of recommendations for what needed to go into a full production generation of the machine. So literally, in late October of 1976, I put all of my furniture and things in storage, and left California with a couple of suitcases toolbox, because I wouldn’t have to repair machines from time to time. And a guy Don Holland, and we flew to Boston, where I’d never been before we set up in an apartment they had arranged on a long term, residential place for me to stay. So I immediately got to learn to get around Boston, and then traveled into Cambridge, where Ray Kurzweil his lab was work there for a while learning all the things that I needed to learn about the machine. And then we started putting them around the country in about March or April of 1977. And as I said, literally traveling around the country, to to be where the machines were interact with the people using them and, and all the other things that went into the to the project. And then in June of 1978, the project ended as we created the recommendations for the final version of the report, saying what needed to be in the machine. And then I was hired by Ray to do the same thing internally. So again, I never thought I would be doing something like that. I had really thought I’d go into teaching but I got to use some teaching skills because we wrote a training manual for the machine early on. So I went to work for Ray. And in May of 1979, I believe it was I was called into the office of the vice president of marketing and said, You said we’re laying you off and I said, What is it? Yeah, we’re laying you off. I had just moved to Boston. And I knew from being involved in the National Federation of the Blind. I’d been in that organization since 1972. It’s the largest organization of blind people in the country. I knew the unemployment rate among employable blind people was 70%. And it’s not much lower than that today. And it’s not because blind people can’t work. It’s because people think we can’t roadblocks again, right? Anyway, I didn’t want to leave the company. But he said, we’re laying you off. And the reason we’re laying off is not that you’re doing a bad job. But like a lot of startups, we’ve hired too many people who are not revenue producers, and we need to get more sales people in so we’re going to have to lay you off. And then there was this pause. And he said, Unless you want to go into sales. Now I’m a science guy, right? I’m a teacher, I’m not a sales guy. So he said, you know, you’ve got to decide what you want to do. Well, I took maybe a micro nanosecond, and I said, Sure, I’ll go into sales. I didn’t want to change companies. I didn’t want to go off and start trying to find another job after moving all of my stuff to Boston. So I took a Dale Carnegie sales course and went into sales. But I also had the advantage of being very technical and had the discipline of being technical, which helped, as I discovered in learning to sell the product. And not only that I wasn’t selling the reading machine for blind people I was asked to sell a commercial version of that machine that would convert not to voice for blind people to read to read but would actually convert just to ASCII computer digital form. So That banks could digitize their paper, publishers could digitize and republish old books, lawyers could publish documents to put in a database for research. It was the first time optical character recognition was really used to help in large scale ways, take material and put it into computer readable form. Because again, Kurzweil is products didn’t care about type sales. And so my sales territory became New England and Canada. So now I’m flying to a foreign country where I’d never been before as well.
Michael Hingson 25:35
And again, I was fortunate because it all started with the National Federation of the Blind where I had a job. But clearly, I had to have been able to perform the work to be considered as we moved on. And I thought, as I thought about it later, Ray and the staff at Kurzweil must have had a lot of confidence in me to say, we’re going to take you from what you were doing and let you sell our most advanced flagship product for companies in New England and Canada. And then I became a sales manager for the company and and also helped in some other product developments that expanded as Xerox took an interest in Kurzweil and decided to buy the company. So I worked with Xerox people. And in 1981, the end of 1981, was asked to move back to California, as Xerox was slowly assimilating the company. And I was asked to work with the West Coast technical people and sales people to integrate Kurzweil into Xerox. So we moved back to California. I met a woman named Karen Ashurst in January of 1982. And we got married in November of 1982.
Michelle Abraham 26:53
Michael Hingson 26:55
Yeah, really well, well, by that time, we both knew what we wanted. We were old enough to know what we were looking for. Yeah, we got along. Well, that’s okay. And 39 years later, this November 27, we’re still married.
Michelle Abraham 27:08
Congratulations. That’s amazing.
Michael Hingson 27:11
And so, again, I know that in some senses, my story is, I don’t know, I would say unique. But it’s, it shows fortunate circumstances because I was offered a position and then I continued to move on from that. But it’s a combination of educating people having the confidence to do it. And, and then making some good choices. And I believe that life is always about choices. And we have options whenever we are confronted with a fork in the road, you know, when somebody once said, you know, with a fork in the road, you can go to the left, or the right. Take your pick.
Michelle Abraham 27:52
Yeah. And it sounds like you really had the confidence to explore new territories and do new things, which is been really great. Now, my question is, yeah, from your parents, which was amazing. You obviously, that’s come right from your childhood. And when you were traveling across the country and into Canada. Now, is the accessibility vary? does it vary from, you know, state to state to country to country? Or did you find it was pretty, pretty similar to travel around both of those, both of those countries and throughout the States?
Michael Hingson 28:26
Yeah, it has been pretty similar in Canada and the United States. Over time, I think the laws haven’t progressed in a uniform way. In Canada, for example, there isn’t as much of a broad americans with disabilities act like legislation, as there is in the US. It’s more province by province. But in the US, the Americans with Disabilities Act has limitations. For example, there are battles on a regular basis over websites. The Americans with Disabilities Act says that businesses need to provide so long as it doesn’t disrupt the business operation. They need to provide reasonable accommodations to provide access for persons with disabilities, access to the facilities, I should put it a different way to the businesses. It doesn’t specify brick and mortar, it just says that the businesses need to be accessible. Universities need to make materials and and what they do accessible. The problem with websites is some organizations have taken the position well, but the ADA was passed before the internet so it clearly can’t cover the internet. The ADA doesn’t say brick and mortar. And so in court cases, some have said when judges rule Well, the ADA doesn’t say it doesn’t apply to the internet. The adea doesn’t say it only applies to brick and mortar. So of course it applies to the internet and a number of companies have had To comply, some companies have fought. And judges have said, well, the internet really wasn’t around then. So clearly the ADA can apply. So it’s still a mixed bag, there’s a gray area. But the reality is the majority, I think of the judicial system, the majority of people, and in most cases, the majority of what people ought to be doing is to make the internet as accessible. But it but it isn’t that way all over. Now there is, for example, a new piece of legislation going into effect has gone into effect in Ontario, but it doesn’t go across Canada, and then the Ontario legislation demands accessibility, but again, it’s province by province. But in the United States, it still is much too much left up to the courts. And it shouldn’t be what it really says is that people with disabilities still are not as included as other minority groups, even though over 20% of people in the United States and in Canada have a disability were not included, like others.
Michelle Abraham 31:13
Wow, that’s a huge percentage. Yeah. Interesting. It’s interesting how it’s varies from different, different places. And if you do envision there being like one, sort of one band of legislation across like North America at some point in your lifetime, that have it all, in one, you know, covered underneath, like kind of the same legislation. So it’s the same from state to state?
Michael Hingson 31:40
Well, I think over time, some things will happen. There was an attempt several years ago to create a treaty, and essentially legislation that would more dictate treatment of persons with disabilities. But even people in our country opposed it saying, no other country is going to tell us what to do. Even though the treaty was based on the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, it’s still got a long way to go in terms of getting to the point where we truly believe that persons with disabilities should be included. what’s ironic about that, is that and I said it before, we all have disabilities, and and to say that my so called disability is that I am blind is, is really creating the limitation based on somebody’s opinion. The fact is, your disability is that you need to have the lights on, or you need to have access to sunlight, because you don’t know how to function and can’t function well, in the dark. And most technology is developed based on the premise that you can see it. Most television is based on the premise that you can see it and I appreciate that. But if it doesn’t take into account, providing the appropriate audio information, you lose out as much as I do, what happens at any commercial, what do people do, they get up and they go get a beer or whatever. And in the background, you hear music, and there’s a lot of stuff showing up on the on your TV screen. But nobody says what it is. And it’s getting worse, where we see more and more TV commercials, where there is no talking or no descriptive talking that tells me what the commercials even about. That’s not just true for me, that’s true for anyone. Or today, we talk about the fact that people shouldn’t text and drive. But society isn’t taking advantage of the fact that companies like Apple have built in voice technology in their phones that can read information that comes across the screen. And apple and other companies have not taken to the extent that they should that voice technology to make it truly possible for you to deal with texts without looking at the screen. Right? If you really want to pick on somebody, let’s pick on Eon Elan Musk, right, he’s got this wonderful Tesla, but it’s all controlled with a touchscreen so you got to look at the screen. Rather than keeping your eye on the road. Of course the premise there is you don’t need to keep your eye on the road eventually, because the car will drive itself although it’s not there yet. But they still should not rely on a visual screen. We get more information from sound than we ever do from what we see and I can make that case all day long.
Michelle Abraham 34:35
Yeah, and this is the 70% of the population is more auditory learners anyways. Exactly. Yeah. Then visual which, by wire podcasting industry is booming like crazy, right? Like I want to talk about a pivotal moment in your life was something that happened on 911. So what are you doing in the World Trade Center on 911.
Michael Hingson 34:56
So still doing the job migration and upgrade path. After Kurzweil was purchased totally by Xerox, we, all the pre Xerox takeover salespeople were invited to leave with thanks for being with us. Your services are no longer needed. Too many companies do that. And I went through a series of jobs. The first one, in fact was I started my own company because I couldn’t get a job because people didn’t care what my resume showed, you’re blind, you could not possibly do what we need you to do. I even had job interviews canceled in advance when someone discovered that I was blind, couldn’t say it up front. But we went through all that. And eventually, I went to work for a company in California that in 1996, asked me to move to the east coast to open an office for them, because we did a lot of selling on Wall Street. So I moved to New Jersey. And we started an office, actually in number two world trade. But I was only there a year. And then I was recruited away by another company. And then in 1999, quantum Corporation, which was and is a fortune 500 company, hired me and quantum made the products that people used to back up all of their computer data. So in Wall Street, for example, whenever you conduct any activity, any transaction, any sales, for whatever you did, you have to keep a record of that for seven years, as required by the Securities and Exchange Commission. So quantum made tape backup systems that could be attached to computer networks. And then people could use software to backup all of their data. So quantum did that primarily through resellers, people who bought our products and resolve them. But Wall Street wanted a real live office for quantum in the city. They did business with companies that had offices in the city, it didn’t mean that they wouldn’t buy from resellers. But they wanted a presence nearby. So we opened an office in October, excuse me in August of 2000. In tower, one of the World Trade Center that we took a year from the time I was hired by quantum, we had an office in New Jersey, but wanted to move it to New York and we finally found a good price and negotiated a great price in the World Trade Center and open the office in August of 2000. So our office was on the 78th floor of tower one I was responsible completely for running that office for hiring sales people getting support people and others involved. And we did all that. So on September 11, we were going to be doing a sales seminar, actually a series of seminars, teaching some of our reseller partners how to sell our products. And so I was in the office pretty early I was in about 20 to eight 740. And a colleague from our corporate office, David Frank was back for the day because he was responsible for the pricing models that we use with resellers and distributors and so on. And so he was going to be there to help deal with pricing and so on. And my job was to run the seminars and to do the actual selling presentations because I would be the the liaison with all of our resellers and, and the distributor that all these resellers actually purchased
Michelle Abraham 38:30
from them like you got to do.
Michael Hingson 38:33
You got to do some teaching. That was that was the plan. Yeah. And so that was what we were going to be doing that day and the seminars were supposed to start about nine in the morning. So I got to the office, and David and some of our early guests arrived about eight we had arranged for breakfast. So people were eating breakfast, and David and I had a few final preparations before the seminar were to start at 845. We were in my office, when the first plane crashed into tower one. It hit 18 floors above us on the other side of the building. So none of us knew what happened. Of course reporters always said and still say sometimes Well, of course you didn’t know what happened because you couldn’t see it. And I’ve gotten to the point of being very intolerant of that question because nobody could see it. The last time I checked, Superman and X ray vision were fictitious, fictitious, they weren’t real. And when I’m on the south side of a building, and the airplane hits on the north side 18 floors above us, how are any of us going to know what happened? We didn’t know. And going all the way down the stairs we didn’t know. But I had done something that I didn’t actually think about in as much detail as they should have until last year which is I had spent a lot of time prior to September 11 learning about the company. Plex learning where things were literally learning how to get anywhere in the building, I also spend time learning about what to do in the case of emergencies. And spent hours talking to the the fire protection people, the Port Authority, security people learning everything that I could, because I knew that one, I might be the only person in my office if we happen to have an emergency because I didn’t want the salespeople in there more than they needed to be. They needed to be out selling. Yeah, we had meetings and so on. But they were out more than they were in. And sometimes I was out with them. But a lot of times I might be in the office alone. And so I wanted to know all I could because I’m not going to read signs that tell me what to do when an emergency and shouldn’t. But what happened because of all of that was I developed a mindset that basically said, you know what to do in an emergency, you don’t need to worry about it, unless it just falls on you. And there’s nothing you can do anyway. But that mindset kicked in when the plane hit the building. And I was able to keep people focused. And as I’ve learned to call it, I was not blinded by fear. And by that I mean I was not paralyzed, I was not consumed by fear so that I could figure out what to do. I used the fear and concern that I had in a controlled way to heighten my senses of observation, and my thought process processes to be able to deal with whatever was going on. And the result of that was that I realized pretty quickly that whatever was going on wasn’t near enough to us that we couldn’t try to evacuate in an orderly way. And we did, we went to we got our guests to the stairs. And then David, who got them to the stairs and started them down then came back and we then went to the stairs and started down why the stairs, because in an emergency especially if there’s fire, you don’t take the elevators because the fire could get into the elevator shafts. It did. But I knew not to take the elevators because of the preparations that I had made and the knowledge that I had. So I got David to take people to the stairs. Then he came back, we went to the stairs and started down. And almost immediately I began spelling an odor. And I realized after about four floors, it was a familiar odor. And what it was was the fumes from burning jet fuel. So that’s the first time I knew that there were airplanes involved. And I observed it to other people. And they said, yeah, we must have been hit by an airplane because you’re right. That’s what we’re smelling as jet fuel. Wow. Yeah. But that’s all we knew going down the stairs. So, um, but we didn’t make it down. I was due to preparation and a mindset. And last year in the pandemic, I realized I’ve talked about that. So after September 11, I traveled around the country, people would start calling me and saying would you come and tell us your story and speak to us about the lessons we should learn. And that happened because on the 12th of September, I called Guide Dogs for the Blind and they wrote a story and Larry King got ahold of it. And I was invited to be on Larry King Live on the 14th of September for the first of five interviews on Larry’s and
Michelle Abraham 43:16
on liking a lot having five times Yeah. Now, over the course of the last like 10 years, or
Michael Hingson 43:23
Yeah, it was actually from 2001 through 2006. But on the last time we were at the show, I said to Larry, at some point, I think I’ve got to write a book about this. Would you write the foreword? And he said, Absolutely. And so when we did write Thunder dog in 2010 and 2011 with Suzy Florrie. We got ahold of Larry and I said, you know, here’s the book, would you would you write the foreword. And he did. He wrote a great forward. I’m pretty glad that Larry wrote that it was a page turner. I like that. But but you know that that helped. And the story captivated and still does people’s interest. They want someone to come and speak and for me.
Michael Hingson 44:15
After September 11, I started getting these calls. And I’m kind of going, why don’t want want to spend time selling computer technologies and even tape backup products. I love quantum. But there were some challenges there I with some changes in the leadership of the company. But also, if people want to hire me just to come and tell a story and teach them. Maybe that’s what I’m supposed to do because I was able to survive. I think that when you face death and something like this happens, you’re you’re given a choice as to what you want to do with your life. And frankly, I want to always help people. So this was an opportunity to Do that. Also Guide Dogs for the Blind asked if I would come and work for them. And in 2002, I joined guide dogs, but I also started traveling and speaking. And that also helped guide dogs. So I worked for guide dogs for six and a half years, but also started traveling and being all over the country. And then we got a new CEO in 2008, who said, nobody’s interested in World Trade Center anymore. So we’re phasing out your job. And I said, Okay, well, if that’s what you’re going to do, then I started my own company to keep doing it. And of course, in 2010, we wrote Thunder dog and 2011. It was published in his first week out, it was on the New York Times bestseller list. And it’s been a number one New York Times bestseller. So the concept of nobody being interested in September 11 really wasn’t sensible. But that was their choice. But again, it’s all about choices. And it’s what you do with your life. And for me, I think helping people and teaching people and, and getting people to recognize, maybe there’s more to life than what we all think and that we all can make better choices to help ourselves and each others is a good thing. So now I’ve started to talk about the whole concept of how you deal with controlling your fear in an unexpected life situation. We haven’t done as much as I was going to do with that, because there was another change that came along earlier this year. But we do have a website blinded by fear dotnet. And you can get to it also by going to my website, Michael hingson comm slash blinded by fear, and there’s an E book about it, we’ll be doing some other stuff with it. But in January, I was contacted by a gentleman named shear exceling, who is the was the was an is the founder of a company called excessively ACC SSI ve and he said, we’ve really looked at what you do. And I had expressed an interest just in other ways about the company because I discovered it when I went to a website, excessive B makes websites accessible. It’s a product to help make websites more accessible. And when I discovered the product, I started inquiring about it, I thought about becoming one of their sales partners and just independently selling it. But then the founder called and said, Would you join us and so in January of this year, I became the chief vision officer for accessibility. And I get to help access to be help other companies make their websites accessible, and help them to recognize not only the value of making their website accessible, thus opening it to 20% more of people who they might not otherwise be able to gain access to because their sites aren’t usable, but also helping to perfect the message and helping to make the product a better product and so on. So it’s a lot of fun. So I still travel and speak and I work with excessive being talked about website access and stuff like that. So I’ve always like I’ve always liked to help people and teach. Needless to say, an excessive B is allowed several opportunities to do that. And now we’re about to launch our own podcast called unstoppable mindset. That will be part of a group of podcasts that will go out as as an umbrella with an excessive be called excess cast, which isn’t really announced and it’s still forming. But access cast is a word we can start to use. So access cast will in part be sponsoring the unstoppable mindset, which is a podcast to talk about people who recognize their gifts and in the face sometimes of adversity in the face of fear, or just people who are confident who will talk about what they do, and who also want to help teach make the world a better place. For example, we’ll have a podcast coming up in late September early October.
Michael Hingson 49:08
That will be a picture of a lady named Peggy Chong, who is known as the blind history lady Peggy has spent years researching things that blind people have done. She’s got an incredible number of stories and books about different blind people up and what they’ve done. a jazz musician in San Francisco, who I think a number of people have heard of, but they didn’t know was blind. Sir David Humphreys who is a blind scientist from the very famous scientists in England in the 1800s, but but he was blind. Dr. Jacob Salatin who was a cardiologist who lost his eyesight and continued to be a cardiologist in Chicago who was blind. A judge in India In their incredible number of stories, so we’re going to have her on to talk about some of the stories and talk about her life in general as well. And we’ll, we’ll talk about web access. But I’m always looking for people who have a story to tell that we can bring on. And so anyone who hears this, please reach out to us at Mike at Michael hingson Comm.
Michelle Abraham 50:25
And we will get that, Michael, Have you always been an advocate for inclusivity and accessibility?
Michael Hingson 50:31
I think I have whether it was formally or not, but especially after joining the National Federation of the Blind, I learned the value of it. One of the things that happened to me growing up and in college was I wanted to get life insurance, and I couldn’t, because insurance companies said that if you are blind or have a physical disability, you’re a greater risk than others. And so we’ll either not provide you with insurance, or we’re going to charge you an incredibly high rate just because we think you’re a high risk. The last time I faced that was in college, this guy comes to our door, he made an appointment to see me and I didn’t say I was blind. Deliberately, he comes to the door, and I answered the door. And he said, I’m looking for Michael hinkson. And I saw I’m like looking since you are, well, you didn’t sound blind on the telephone, I can’t sell you insurance, I said, Sure, you can well, you’re a higher risk. Well, in the late 1970s, the National Federation of the Blind started to work on that project. And the bottom line is that insurance companies do all of their work based on statistics, they decide who’s a higher risk based on actual mathematical models and numbers that justify their decisions. As it turns out, they didn’t have a single solitary statistic, they had nothing to show that if you’re blind simply because of blindness. Or if you have a physical disability just because you have a physical disability, that you were a higher risk. And it took several years, but we got every state in the country to pass a law saying you can no longer discriminate just because a person has a physical disability.
Michelle Abraham 52:07
That’s great. What other changes you want to see like that you’ve you know, obviously been working in this in this area for quite some time. Now, there’s obviously some things that the world’s not caught up to just yet. What are some things? What are some changes that you want to see in place in your lifetime? Well, I
Michael Hingson 52:23
want to see webaccess. I want the world to automatically recognize and include all persons in what they do to design websites. And it’s doable. excessively today is the only scalable product that can allow that to happen. But however people make their websites accessible, they should do it. I want people to to allow us to have access to other technologies. Can a blind person drive a car? Absolutely. Anybody who wants to see that can go to www dot blind driver challenge.org. The technology exists to do it today. It’s still not street legal ready, but it’s coming in isn’t an autonomous vehicle. Although that will help. I’d like to see autonomous vehicles because I think that opens up a lot of opportunities. And besides that the way a lot of people drive today, driver errs, I’d rather I’d rather turn it over to the computers, because the way people drive today Forget it, you know. So, but I would like to see inclusion not only in website access, but in, in technology in general. We got to refrigerator earlier this year, and you control it with a touchscreen. And the people the manufacturer said, well, it’s it complies with the ADA, well, it doesn’t if I can’t use it. And there’s an app and a Wi Fi module to add to that that may make it accessible, but I’m still not sure. Because I got the module two weeks ago and the app is inaccessible. There’s no reason for that. I would like to see the manufacturers of smartphones, man require I’m not going to use mandate because I think that’s overused require that at least basic accessibility be included in every app that they allow through their stores. There is no excuse for not allowing access today in every app that that is developed. And the manufacturers like apple in its App Store doesn’t do anything to require any kind of accessibility. They say what we do publish guidelines. Yeah, but you and your app store have other requirements that apps need to meet in order to be sold through the store. But you don’t do anything regarding access. The iPhone is accessible but it’s accessible because they were going to be sued and they they fought off a lawsuit by saying we’ll fix it. And they did. So they’re 95% there, but they don’t do anything about apps in the store. So if I were to sum it up, I would say, in my lifetime, I would like to see us evolve to the point where we don’t need to even use the term accessible, because inclusion will be automatic and part of our mindset.
Michelle Abraham 55:25
Love that. Yeah, that’s a that’s a great thing to be able to. I see that could be something that could be coming down air, you know, in our lifetime, for sure is something that anything, that’s a great thing to be able to aim for. Now. Just a quick question for people who don’t know, what it takes to make a website accessible. What what are a couple things you can just say real quick? What are a few things that need to happen in order for a website to be accessible?
Michael Hingson 55:52
Well, first of all, access a B is inexpensive, it’s $49 a month, and it keeps the website accessible to a very large degree, the kinds of things that excessive B does. And the kinds of things that I would say websites need to do is they need to recognize the the necessity of someone wants to use a keyboard. So how many websites have you gone to where you mouse over a list, and as you scroll down the list, the screen refreshes to show whichever item you’re highlighting, that doesn’t work with a keyboard because as soon as I go to the list and start down to the first one, before I can get to the second one, the screen is refreshed and the list goes away. I need to be able to see the whole list. I need to have links labeled so that I know what a link is. I need to see menus, and menus need to verbalize and those are all things that can be done. The reality is websites can be fully inclusive today. Totally 100%. inclusive. Yeah, but mostly 30. Yeah, the technology exists. But either it’s too costly. Because most websites are made by small enterprises that don’t have a lot of money. That’s where access to be helps. But also, many websites and websites developers don’t know anything about access or inclusion. It’s not part of their mindset or their lexicon.
Michelle Abraham 57:18
Yeah. And so how is it in your, in your opinion? How is it gonna have to change to get the accessibility on the top of people’s minds moving forward in the future?
Michael Hingson 57:28
It’s education, I think it would help if we had tougher laws. It is true that if you don’t make your website accessible today, you can be sued. The ADA is enforced and enough courts have said that essentially by by ruling in favor of website accessibility requirements for a particular site that you can be sued. That’s not the reason for making your website accessible, or it shouldn’t be you should do it, because it’s the right thing to do. But it is a reality that websites need to be made accessible and they can be and it will help prevent lawsuits. But more importantly, it’s the right thing to do, as I said, so people need to think about it. That’s in part why we’re starting the podcasts because I want to educate people about inclusion in general, I want people to not be afraid of blindness. In in past years, the Gallup polling organization has surveyed the fears that people in the United States have. And for many years, one of the top five fears was blindness. Because people grow up thinking that eyesight is the only game in town. And it’s not. So it’s it’s an educational process. But I do wish Congress would adopt more stringent legislation mandates requiring, again, mandating overused requiring that that there be true inclusion, whether it’s making products, whether it’s website accessibility, whether it’s being able to use things, there are blind diabetics, right? who use insulin pumps, but I can’t read the screen on an insulin pump, it’s very difficult for a blind person to be able to, to measure and set up that much less get the information if there is something that needs to be changed or addressed. can be done with an app with more recent pumps. But again, the app has to be accessible and stay accessible. So there’s a lot of education, but there’s a lot that Congress could do to address the issue. And meanwhile, we make inroads with accessibility and, and again, I think we’re in a great position because of the fact that the system is scalable. And by that, I mean for example, as has happened a number of times in the past several months, somebody emails me and said I had a website that I went to that used excessively and Couldn’t do something. Can you fix it? And I and other people went, and we discovered that in reality, there was a problem on the website. And when accessibly fixes the problem for one website, because it’s cloud based, it suddenly fixes it for every website. So anyone else that use the same technology got the fix?
Michelle Abraham 1:00:22
Oh, that’s awesome. And so now SSB is become a partner of yours. And,
Michael Hingson 1:00:29
now its a company that I work for. Yeah, yeah.
Michelle Abraham 1:00:31
And so now you’re in the podcast that’s coming out. The hope is to have more education around accessibility and inclusion. And so tell us before we let you go, some things that you’re hoping to, to have happen with your podcast, tell us a little bit about more about the podcast, what we can expect from me. And I know it’s sad, it’s it’s a been an awesome project to work on with you. So tell us a little bit more about it?
Michael Hingson 1:00:56
Well, I don’t want to try to help create more of a climate of inclusion in the world. I don’t use diversity, because diversity, very rarely, if ever, includes people with disabilities. So I think inclusion is a more relevant term. I want to talk about that I do want to talk about access. But I also want to talk and, and interview people who have had other unexpected things in their lives or who have had things happen to them, and learn how they’ve dealt with them. And what lessons Do they have for all of us, because a lot of that will tie back to anything that you do daily with disabilities. But it isn’t just a podcast about disabilities, it will be in large part. But it’s also really unstoppable mindset, a mindset that some people adopt, that says we can succeed and overcome things that others are afraid of. Why are they able to do that? And what lessons can they help us teach others so that more people will, for example, not be so afraid of the pandemic, but learn how to better deal with it, and recognize the value of certain things that we probably should do just to remain more safe. And it isn’t to say, don’t respect this disease, it’s here, and it is something that we definitely need to respect the existence of, but we also do have tools to deal with it. What happens if there’s another September 11? people going down the stairs? How is it that we keep people calm in unexpected situations in their lives? What have some people been able to do? How do people with disabilities deal with that? How come some people with disabilities are successful, and others are not, which are probably very straightforward ways of getting to that same thing. And so that’s why we will deal with access and inclusion. But it’s not just about that, we will deal with the with the web accessibility gap, the fact that out of the 380 websites created every minute in the United States, only 2% become accessible. Or in that goes worldwide, but I’ll use the United States statistic but it’s about the same wherever you go. We’re not inclusive, and we can be
Michelle Abraham 1:03:20
Yeah, that’s amazing. I love you know, I love i’d love looking forward to hearing more of the episodes that you have created on the podcast and more of the people you know, that have stories to share about this and their experiences and just you know, the education that’s needed around, you know, attitudes around, you know, inclusion and you know, accessibility I love that you know that this podcast is going to help change lives. It’s going to help make an impact on people and it’s going to help people change their attitude and their and their belief system around what’s possible. And I love your limitless mindset. It’s a very inspiring, Michael. And I want to thank you for being here with us today. Your story is really inspiring. It’s really insightful. And it’s really, it’s, it’s one that I look forward to sharing with our audience all over the world as well.
Michael Hingson 1:04:10
Thank you and I hope people will go by thunder dog. Larry King said it’s a page turner I’m not going to dispute it. But I do hope people will get it. It’s available wherever books are sold. Barnes and Noble sells at Amazon sells at a time to Audible. We wrote another book called running with Roselle which is more for kids about my growing up and rosellas growing up but more adults by a thing kids so it’s it’s available from Amazon as well. If people want to tell a story I’d love to hear from them and I gave my personal email address later but they can also reach out to contact at Michael hingson calm. So contact at m IC h AL h i n g s o n calm. Love to hear from anyone who has a story and wants to tell it on the podcast because we’re not going to limit our ourselves to disabilities. But whether you have a disability of the conventional kind or your light dependent, we want to hear from you anyway, if you think you have a story that we should share, and I’m really excited to be doing the podcast and being able to help access a be make the world a more inclusive place as well.
Michelle Abraham 1:05:21
Yeah, that’s so awesome. Well, thank you so much, Michael, make sure our audience listening to go check out Michael’s website, Michael Hanson comm you guys can grab his books, any place that sells books, but you can also get it right from the website as well. And any last words for us, Michael, before we let you go
Michael Hingson 1:05:37
real quick, if you want to learn a little bit more about accessibility, and so on, go to access a B’s website, www dot excessive, be calm. www dot ACC e SSI, b e.com. While you’re there, there’s a tool called Ace AC E. If you click on the link for Ace, you can actually go in and check any website. So if you want a website, plug your website in, an ace will tell you how accessible it is. So you can see how much work there is that needs to be done. You can go to my website or excessively his website and actually see the product in action as well. And I emphasize that because again, I’m wanting to really make sure that we deal with inclusion. But Ace is a great tool because you can see just what your website does, what it doesn’t do and what it needs to do that it doesn’t do today.
Michelle Abraham 1:06:27
And accessories got the quick solution that will help us change that I write so it can be more inclusive for everybody.
Michael Hingson 1:06:33
And for the things that excessive B doesn’t do. There are a number of ways that excessive B can help you address those two. So, you know, looking forward to helping people make the world more inclusive.
Michelle Abraham 1:06:43
Absolutely. We have the tools and the technology. There’s no reason not to right here, right? Haha. Awesome. Well, thank you so much. Thank you. Such a pleasure having you on. And we look forward to speaking with you again. Now, thank you,
Michael Hingson 1:06:58
Michael Hingson 1:06:59
Well, I hope that you found that interesting and enjoyable and informative. You know, there are a lot of things that one can say about the whole concept of philosophy of blindness. And we’ll talk more about that. in future episodes. It doesn’t matter so much if it’s blindness or some other disability or any difference. But there are basic philosophies. And there are basic lessons that we all should learn about difference. This podcast, the unstoppable mindset is all about discussing with people how they have overcome some of their own challenges and fears and have they have demonstrated that they are in fact unstoppable. I hope you’ll be with us in future weeks, and that she’ll visit Michael hingson comm slash podcast to learn more about the podcast episodes that we’ve already played, and some of the ones coming up and that you’ll possibly want to be a part of it. If you would like to reach out, feel free to do so. And I’d love to learn more about you and possibly feature you on a future show.
Michael Hingson 1:08:12
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