From the Disability Wisdom Community: A Partial List of Disabled Change Makers

Recently on the Disability Wisdom Discussion Group, we brainstormed a list of disabled people who have been highly impactful on their professions or on the world. This list, written in no particular order, represents the collective contributions disabled people make in their communities. Of course, this list only scratches the surface, as there are many others with disabilities, some whose disabilities are undisclosed, who have impacted the lives of others. One thing, I hope, is clear: If we exclude disabled people from public life, we would be depriving our society of a lot of talent, innovation and creativity.

  • Temple Grandin.
  • Daniel Kish for Mobility/psychology/motivational speaking. Jenny Lawson for writing. Anthony Hopkins for acting.
  • Joanne Wilson, Pamela Allen, Jennifer Kennedy, Kenneth Jernigan for blindness rehabilitation.
  • Stella Young, who coined the term “inspiration porn.”
  • Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, is dyslexic.
  • I think Danny DeVito has some kind of disability… Either a learning disability or dyslexia.
  • Stevie wonder, hellen keller, ray charles
  • Jacob Bolotin was a blind doctor in the early 1900s.
  • Marcy Roth is really, really cool. She handled a lot of disaster releaf via fema,, did a lot of advocacy worldwide, and is now the executive director of the world institute on disability.
  • David Patterson, governor of New York, 2008-2010, is blind.
  • How about Vernon Smith, the Autistic economist who won a Nobel in 2002? Or Greta Thunberg whose activism has taken the world by storm (sorry for the climate pun)? Autistic actors Daryl Hannah and Dan Aykroyd ?
  • Judge Tatel on the DC Circuit. He is totally blind and considered a “feeder judge” (i.e. a judge whose clerks often clerk on the Supreme Court).
  • Greg Abbott I’m fairly certain that’s his last name, governor of TX and a wheelchair user.
  • I typed in famous people who are bipolar. I got Mariah Carey, Russell Brand, Demi Lovato, Carrie Fisher…
  • Kody Keplinger is a legally blind author. She wrote The DUFF.
  • Judy Human for wheelchair user and all around amazing person!
  • Haben Girma. A DeafBlind lawyer
  • Tammy Duckworth. She’s a senator from Illinois and a double amputee. She appears publicly with either her prosthetics or in her chair.
  • Paganini, the virtuoso violinist, had some sort of connective tissue disorder, probably EDS. He had other cronic illness situations, but the disorder probably contributed to long term health problems and his death. However, because of the hypermobility of his finger joints, he was able to do incredible things on the violin that others could not.
  • U.S. presidents: President Woodrow Wilson had a learning disability. President James Madison, Father of the Constitution had seizures. President Grover Cleveland was a cancer survivor. President Roosevelt had polio and he was a wheelchair user.

From the UK: Tanni Grey Thompson – multiple gold medal winning Paralympian, Baroness and member of the House of Lords ( one of two Houses of Parliament here )
Disability campaigner, wheelchair user.
She is always tweeting about problems accessing trains yet she has a train named after her because of her achievements ! Liz Carr, Actress , notably Clarissa in Silent Witness, writer and disability rights campaigner , wheelchair user. David Blunkett , blind former MP and Home Secretary

  • Historically, Homer, Milton, Beethoven, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Fannie Lou Hamer all had disabilities.
  • Couple more: Christine Ha (blind winner of MasterChef) and Geerat Vermeij (award-winning blind geologist).
  • Tim Cordes, blind physician.
  • Annette Funichello and Selma Blaire are both acclaimed actresses who continued to work after an MS diagnosis. Selma’s red carpet cane inspired me to suck it up and get my first cane.
  • ·         And many, many more!

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