There is a saying that there is ability in disability and even though it is said, not so many are able to turn their disabilities into something of an advantage to them. Disabilities are not limited to race, gender, creed, status or fame (there are famous people with disabilities); they could happen to anyone and for most, it becomes a death sentence, the end of existence. However, there are others who learn to channel their inner abilities and by so doing, rise above their physical limitations.
Drawn out from various parts of the world and from different fields, these famous people with disabilities have been able to defy all odds and leave their marks on the earth. Let us now look into the life of 10 famous people who lived with disabilities but were able to accomplish a lot in their lifetime.
Famous People With Disabilities Whose Imprints Are Felt In The World
1. Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo was arguably one of the most talented artists (visual) from Mexico. She was born in Coyocoan, Mexico on July 6, 1907. She is of mixed ethnicity, German, Amerindian, and Spanish. Her father was a German photographer who moved to Mexico when he married her mother. She attended the prestigious school, National Preparatory School in Mexico City but before that, she was struck by polio and was left bedridden for 9 months. The condition also left its mark on her as it caused one of her legs to be thinner than the other. Upon recovery, Frida Kahlo always covered her legs with long cloths but that did not stop her from walking with a limp.
At school, she was a bold and brave young lady who had strong political views. Her love for painting began when she was involved in a ghastly bus accident with her lover, Gomez Arias. She was terribly injured and spent weeks at the hospital in recovery. She later went home to recuperate and that was when she began painting. Soon, what began as a means of escape from the circumstances she found herself in, became a life long career.
Frida continued painting and even married a muralist. She has a lot of symbolic works, significant among others is her 1939 painting called The Frame. It was the first Mexican portrait to be bought by a renowned international museum, Louvre. During her lifetime and due to the accident, she underwent 32 different surgeries, most of which were a disaster. She also suffered emotional pain from her miscarriages due to the accident. But despite all these, she rose to become one of the greatest artists Mexico has ever produced.
2. Stevie Wonder
The music icon, was born Stevland Hardaway Judkins. He was born in the city of Saginaw, Michigan on May 13, 1950. He is a child prodigy born into the family of Calvin Judkins and songwriter Lula Mae Hardaway. Stevie was born 6 weeks premature and with a condition known as retinopathy of prematurity. His eye condition worsened when he was put in an incubator where he received too much oxygen causing the infant to go blind. What a sad event for his family, however, everything was about to change when he started showing very early signs of musical potential.
At the age of the 4, he had become a singing sensation, dishing out renditions to a congregation at Detroit, Michigan. In addition to this, he had also started playing several instruments, all self-taught before the age of 10. The amazing story continues as the blind American musician signed his first record label deal at the age of 11. At that age, he released several hit songs some of which made it to the R&B and pop charts’ top spots.
Aside from being a songwriter, musician, and multi-instrumentalist, he also produced music. About 30 of his songs made it to top 10 spots on various chats in the US. He has won the prestigious Grammy awards 25 times, among other awards. He is a true legend who didn’t allow his disability to limit his achievements.
3. Stephen Hawking
was one of the greatest cosmologist and theoretical physicist the world ever knew. He was born on January 8, 1942, in Oxford, London to the family of Frank and Isobel Eileen Hawking. His mother’s family members where predominantly doctors, little surprise when his father asked him to study medicine. However, he didn’t study medicine, but physics at his parents’ alma mater – The University of Oxford. He was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Motor Neuron Disease (MND).
When Stephen was diagnosed with this illness, he had just graduated with a B.A from Oxford and despite the illness, he went ahead to complete his Masters and later obtained a Ph.D. He is popular for his works on the Big Bang theory, quantum mechanics, black holes and theory of relativity. He also wrote books that explain various aspects of these fields.
He made a significant impact in the field of science and physics despite his inability to walk or speak. He spent the better half of his life on a wheelchair and only being able to communicate with a software mechanical speech device but made so much impact that he was regarded the most brilliant physicist after Albert Einstein.
4. Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig is one of the greatest classical musicians of all times, and he is still celebrated by his city through festivals. He was born on December 16, 1770, in the city of Bonn, Germany. He was born into the musically inclined family of Johann and Maria Magdalena van Beethoven and is the eldest of his three siblings. His father was a musician who taught Ludwig to play instruments. At the age of 12, Ludwig played the piano very well.
Soon after, he became an instrumentalist and a composer and then became deaf when he turned 30. His deafness affected his social life but didn’t stop him from being one of the greatest musicians ever to be born. Before his death in Vienna, he kept on composing and making music even though couldn’t hear his own songs.
5. RJ Mitte
Film actor, model, and producer, RJ Mitte has proven that there can be an ability in disability. He was born Roy Frank Mitte in Jackson, Mississippi on August 21, 1992. He was delivered by a surgical operation and never knew his parents. When he was born, he wasn’t breathing, which led to permanent brain damage. This eventually resulted in mild cerebral palsy, which was diagnosed at the age of three. He was brought up by his foster parents, Roy Frank Mitte Jr. and Dyna Mitte.
Due to his condition, his legs were not straight so he had to work with leg braces and crutches for most of his childhood. At the early age of 13, he was saddled with the responsibility of taking care of his mother and sister as his parents split. He took interest in acting in 2006 and took on the role of Walter White Jr, a character who had cerebral palsy, in the movie Breaking Bad. This was a breakthrough role for him as he received an award for his part and also made a representation for actors with disabilities under the umbrella of Inclusion in the Arts and Media of Performers with Disabilities.
6. Helen Keller
was a writer and activist. She was born into the family of Colonel Arthur Keller and Kate Adams. Many know her as a blind and deaf woman but she wasn’t born like that. She became deaf and blind, 19 months after her birth as a result of some unknown illness. She was born on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Due to her condition, Helen became a rude and troublesome young child. She frequently threw tantrums and was a problem at home.
However, Helen Keller’s life would change for better when she met Anne Mansfield Sullivan at the age of six. Anne helped to control Helen’s unruly behavior and also taught her words. She soon learned the alphabets and started reading and writing. She also developed a desire to go to school. This desire came to be a reality when she was admitted to Radcliffe College in 1900. She graduated a few years later and became the first deaf and blind person to graduate from college with a B.A degree. After graduation, he began writing and published 12 books. She was also a women and labor rights activist.
7. Franklin Roosevelt
Franklin Roosevelt is most popular for being the 32nd president of the United States of America. He was born on January 30, 1882, in Hyde Park, New York into the family of businessman James Roosevelt and his second wife, Sara Ann Delano. His family was one of the wealthy families at that time in America. He went to some of the finest schools, took up jobs in various fields but ended up being a politician.
He began politics in 1910, as a Democrat and was elected the President of the United States for a record four times. Unfortunately, in August 1921, Roosevelt suffered an illness that will change the course of his life forever. He suffered from polio and had other symptoms such as fever, facial paralysis, bowel and bladder dysfunction, numbness and so on – all of which culminated into paralysis as he was paralyzed from the waist downward. However, this didn’t stop him from achieving a lot. As the president of the United States, he was credited with helping America come out of The Great Depression and World War II. He is also linked to the defeat of the German Nazi government and Japanese militarism.
8. Sudha Chandran
Sudha Chandran is an Indian actress and dancer who was born in the Indian city of Mumbai on September 21, 1965. She was born to a former actor, K.D. Chandran – the identity of her mother is unknown. She was fortunate to have a father who valued education which meant she obtained her first degree from Mithibai College, Mumbai and later an M.A. in Economics.
When Sudha was 16, she was involved in a ghastly car accident. It caused injury to both her legs and later led to the amputation of her right one due to the growth of gangrene. This disability was eased by the use of a prosthetic foot to aid her mobility. Years later, she began dancing again and this time, she danced in many countries around the world. She also made a career out of movie and television roles and has won several awards for her works over the years.
9. Stephen Wiltshire
Stephen Wiltshire is a very impressive artist who is best known for cityscape drawings which he sketches from memory. The amazing phenomenon about his work is that he is able to draw a place only after seeing it once, this feature has earned his works great popularity.
The artist was born in London, in 1974 to Caribbean parents. He was born mute and at the age of three. he was diagnosed with autism. Autism is basically a disorder in the development of a person that creates difficulty in the ability to interact and communicate. His interest in arts began at the young age of five. He was honored in 2006 when he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).
10. Peter Longstaff
The farmer turned artist, Peter Longstaff is one of those famous people who have intrigued us with their story. Peter was born without arms due to his mother’s intake of a drug called thalidomide. She took it to deal with her morning sickness, little did she know it would have so much effect on her unborn child.
Peter became a farmer but soon turned to painting when his farm was sold. He paints with his feet and his works have been recognized all over the world. His works include snow-covered bridges, trees and so on. His paintings over the years have been reprinted in Christmas calendars and cards.