Famous Disabled People

Jim Abbott - Abbott was born without a right hand. Despite his disability he became a star baseball player. He played professional baseball with many teams, including a stint with the New York Yankees where in 1993, he threw a successful no-hitter.

Simona Atzori - Atzori is from Milan, Italy. She was born without arms. Simona is a truly amazing woman. She combines both of her passions - art and dance. She has art exhibitions and dances all over the world. As a teenager she presented Pope John Paul II with a portrait she made of him. She has won many awards and has done many television interviews. Simona also danced in the 2006 Paralympics.

Beethoven - Beethoven was a very famous composer who began to go deaf around the age of 28. It was something that he really struggled with and even contemplated suicide. However, he continued to work and produced some of his most famous pieces after he had lost his hearing, including his 9th Symphony. Beethoven frequently suffered from ill-health and it is still not known for sure what caused his deafness. Some of the possibilities include Paget's disease, cochlear otosclerosis, or an autoimmune disorder such as systemic lupus erythematosus.

Michael J. Fox - Fox, a popular sitcom and movie star, was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson's in 1991. He didn't disclose his illness until 1998, and since then he has put much time and research into the Michael J. Fox Foundation. The Foundation works to raise money and awareness about Parkinson's and stem-cell research. Fox continues to act; in 2006, he appeared in a few episodes of Boston Public and he will be reprising that role again next season.

Terry Fox - Fox was only 18 years old when he had his right leg amputated six inches above the knee due to osteogenic sarcoma. In spite of being an amputee, he dedicated his life to raising money for cancer research and awareness. He set himself a goal of running across Canada with his artificial limb, collecting money along the way. After 18 months and 3,107 miles Fox had to discontinue his run as the cancer had spread to his lungs. Sadly, he passed away June 28, 1981; however, his legacy lives on through annual "Terry Fox Runs" in Canada and throughout the world.

Rick Hansen - Hansen hails from British Columbia, Canada and was involved in an automobile accident that left him a paraplegic. Hansen has won 19 International wheelchair marathons, three world championships and was in the 1984 Olympic Games for Canada. In 2003, he created Wheels In Motion which is an annual event held in cities across Canada. It focuses on raising awareness and funds to help support the quality of life of people who are paraplegics due to spinal cord injuries.

Stephen Hawking - Hawking suffers from advanced ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease) which has rendered him a quadriplegic. He is confined to a wheelchair which he needs to help him move and speak. He is a famous physicist and mathematician who has published many books and still makes public appearances and gives speeches on his work.

Helen Keller - Keller was blind, deaf and mute. She learned to read with raised letters and later with Braille. She met Alexander Graham Bell and was a guest at the White House where she visited President Cleveland. She devoted her life to helping others with disabilities.

Marlee Matlin - Matlin is a famous actress who became deaf during infancy. She has gone on to star in many movies and television shows, and won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her work in the film "Children of a Lesser God."

Curtis Mayfield - Mayfield was a very popular singer who rose to stardom with the band The Impressions. He then went on to have a successful solo career, with the peak being the release of the soundtrack for the film Superfly. Superfly is widely regarded as one of the most influential albums of all time. Mayfield suffered from diabetes and in 1990, became a quadriplegic when a stage light fell on him during a concert. Instead of giving up, Mayfield forged ahead. He could no longer play his guitar but he did write, direct and record one final album called New World Order. It was a lengthy process that required him to record almost every line one-by-one, but he prevailed.

Heather Mills - Mills is the estranged wife of former Beatle Paul McCartney. In her younger years she was an established model. In 1993, she was in an accident that resulted in her left leg needing to be amputated below the knee (SBK amputation). Since then, she has been an avid activist for amputee rights, and is very involved with helping to distribute prostheses to the less fortunate.

Richard Pryor - Pryor, arguably one of the most influential stand-up comedians ever, battled Multiple Sclerosis for many years. He continued to do some stand-up comedy and also guest-starred on a very influential episode of the TV Show "Chicago Hope" where he portrayed a struggling MS patient. He uttered a famous and very meaningful quote regarding learning of his diagnosis. He said: "To be diagnosed was the hardest thing because I didn't know what they were talking about. And the doctor said 'Don't worry, in three months you'll know.' "So I went about my business and then, one day, it jumped me. I couldn't get up. ... Your muscles trick you; they did me."

Christopher Reeve - Christopher Reeve was best known for playing the role of Superman in the four Superman movies that were made in the Seventies and Eighties. He suffered a terrible horse-riding accident that left him a quadriplegic. He went on to dedicate the rest of his life to both his goal of being able to walk again and raising awareness for his condition. He was also very active in advocating and promoting stem-cell research.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt - President Roosevelt served three terms as the President of the United States of America. He had severe polio and couldn't walk unassisted yet was responsible for running the country during WWII. He also helped pull the country out of depression through the use of social programs.

Harriet Tubman - Tubman suffered from severe epilepsy and when she escaped from slavery, she dedicated her life to helping to free others from slavery. She also put a great deal of energy into furthering the woman's rights movement.

Erik Weihenmayer - Weihenmayer is the only blind person to have climbed the 'Seven Summits' the tallest peak on every continent.

Tom Whittaker - Whittaker holds the distinction of reaching the summit of Mt. Everest with a disability. He is an amputee who is missing his right foot due to a car accident that occurred in 1979. He has used his prosthetic foot as a climbing advantage, rather than a disadvantage. His goal now is to climb the highest peaks on all the continents.

Stevie Wonder - Wonder is a very famous singer and entertainer who was born blind potentially due to an oxygen problem when he was in the incubator. Despite his disability rendering him completely without vision, he has gone on to have one of the most successful careers in the music business. He has recorded over 30 top hits and won 21 Grammy Awards.


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