On November 20, 2013, I had the unexpected honor of meeting author Michael Hingson. I had recently read and reviewed his book, Thunder Dog, and within 24 hours of my review being posted on Teen Voice, Michael Hingson posted a comment! I was thrilled! In his comment, Mr. Hingson invited me (and my parents) to his upcoming presentation: Speaking With Vision at Irvine Valley College.
Even though he has been called a hero for surviving the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks in the World Trade Center through the partnership of his guide dog, Roselle, Mr. Hingson focused his speech on his life experiences before and after his terrifying ordeal.
Being completely blind, Mr. Hingson has challenges due to his physical inability to “see” with his eyes. True, this means he is forced to take a different approach to things designed for a sighted world. But this isn’t a disability to him.
Those of us who pre-judge and limit Mr. Hingson when we learn he is blind have the real disabilities. Much to the dismay of his well-meaning neighbors, Mr. Hingson grew up riding a normal two-wheel bicycle around town! He did this without crashing into objects or running into people. He rode his bike just like the other kids who were not blind. How did he do it? Much like dolphins and bats, Mr. Hingson learned that our environment “sounds” different when you pass a solid object or open doorway and that distances can be determined by sound bouncing off objects. He has become an expert at echolocation.
He has also become an expert at determination and having a “can-do” attitude. His philosophy on life first began by his parents who never believed or treated him as if he was disabled. Rather than insisting he live in a “safe” environment, they just cautioned him to be careful. Mr. Hingson has never expected or welcomed special treatment. But he has insisted that he have the same opportunities sighted people have.
Mr. Hingson and his parents don’t spend time worrying about what isn’t in their control (like being blind or being inside the WTC when the hijacked planes hit the Twin Towers). Instead, Mr. Hingson believes we should “focus on things you can [control]. The rest will take care of itself.”
He wholeheartedly believes that “We have to make the decision to use our tools to move forward and progress,” just like the one-word command he gives his guide dogs to signal when he is ready to go: “Forward.”
During Mr. Hingson’s speech, it was hard to tell he was blind. If he wasn’t talking about his disability (though it’s not really a disability at all), I would’ve forgotten he was blind! This is just another way to show you that Mr. Hingson doesn’t let his blindness drive his life.
After his speech, Mr. Hingson gave me a pre-release copy of his new book aimed towards 8-year-olds and up, Running with Roselle. Running with Roselle is a children’s version of his New York Times bestseller, Thunder Dog. I will be honored to read and review this book in an upcoming blog!
-Danielle L., 6th grade