“Who would have ever thought?” is a question Michael Hingson thinks about and discusses in every speech he delivers. Michael Hingson’s life changed dramatically on September 11, 2001 when he and his guide dog, Roselle, escaped from the 78th floor of Tower One in the World Trade Center moments before it collapsed. Soon after, Michael and Roselle were thrust into the international limelight where Michael began to share his unique survival story and 9-11 lessons of trust, courage, heroism, and teamwork.
Michael and Roselle became recognized experts of the strength of Teamwork and the human-animal bond, and have been successful in communicating the power of Trust in countless media interviews and public presentations. Michael’s #1 New York Times best-selling book, THUNDER DOG: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero was released in August, 2011 and gives readers an unprecedented look at how a guide dog team works and how blind people can be just as successful as our “light dependent colleagues”. A harrowing story of trust and courage, Thunder Dog reveals how blindness and a bond between dog and man saved lives and brought hope during one of America’s darkest days – September 11, 2001.
Although blind from birth, Michael has an indomitable and fearless spirit that first emerged when he began to spread his wings as a boy, first by riding a pedal car inside the house, without assistance, after he learned to “hear” the coffee table. Then he shocked the neighbors by graduating to riding his bicycle, alone, through the streets of Palmdale, California. Raised with a can-do attitude by parents who refused to send him away to “a home for the handicapped”, Michael’s father taught him to do math in his head and his mother taught him Braille.
Michael is no stranger to discrimination. When he was a high school student, the school district refused to allow Michael to board the school bus with his guide dog. His father, who had an eighth grade education, did his own research and fought the system, eventually getting his son a seat on the school bus. Michael earned the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America and flourished in school. During college at the University of California at Irvine, he became an on campus radio personality, drove a car around campus at night, and even had his guide dog, Squire, stolen in a dorm prank. Michael took a master’s degree in physics and is a lifetime member of the Physics Honors Society, Sigma Pi Sigma.
In 1982 Michael met and married his wife, Karen, who uses a wheelchair. Later Michael went to work for Quantum, a high-tech company that manufactures tape backup systems. Quantum occupied a suite on the 78th floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center. On September 11, 2001, Michael and his guide dog, Roselle, had just arrived and settled in to work when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into their building in the terrorist attack that destroyed the World Trade Center. They survived the initial impact and, after descending 78 flights of stairs, Michael and Roselle were just 100 yards away from Tower Two when it collapsed.
After sharing his survival story on hundreds of TV and radio programs, Michael decided it was time for a change. After a 27-year career in high tech computer sales and management, Michael joined the San Rafael, California based Guide Dogs for the Blind team in 2002 as the National Public Affairs director, sharing his 9-11 story throughout the world on behalf of the school. In June of 2008 Michael left Guide Dogs to form The Michael Hingson Group, Inc. to travel the world speaking about the importance of teamwork and trust in our professional and personal lives, along with serving as a consultant for corporations and organizations that need assistance with Inclusive and Diversity training as well as adaptive technology training.
Michael is a former member of the California State Guide Dog Board and has served on several other prominent agency boards throughout his career. Presently he serves as secretary to the Marin County Senior Coordinating Council and is a member of the board of directors of the Colorado Center for the Blind and of the National Federation of the Blind of California. In November, 2008, Michael was appointed a National Ambassador for the Braille Literacy Campaign of the National Federation of the Blind. On October 1, 2011 Michael and Roselle were honored by the American Humane Association with the 2011 Hero Dog Award in a star-studded gala in Beverly Hills, the program aired on the Hallmark Channel on Veteran’s Day, 2011 with an encore screening on December 23, 2011. Michael is an Ambassador for the American Humane Association.
Michael lives in Northern California with his wife, Karen, Africa, Michael’s seventh guide dog, and Fantasia, Africa’s mother and a retired breeder dog for Guide Dogs for the Blind.
This weeks hero is sure to empower you! The Fedora Outlier’s Delivering Access Podcast was created to highlight individuals, groups and communities in the ever growing blindness population who are changing life’s and making a difference in the world through their works, passion and their belief in change.
This weeks guest is Michael Hingson
Listen as our guest walks us through their life of how they became blind, they’re early years and the tools they used along their journey.
Tools and technology:
Slate and Stylus
Juilet 60 braille embosser
If you or someone you know has a story that needs to be told or if you want to highlight an organization, cause or your passion. Feel free to contact us and we’ll be happy to review your request and get you on an upcoming episode of the Delivering Access Podcast.