Famous People with Disabilities
Is it possible for people with disabilities to
overcome prejudices in society, and to become
Sometimes, it is easy for people - even people
with disabilities - to be lulled into believing that
disability is a virtually impenetrable barrier to
Yet nothing could be further from the truth. There
are many examples of people with disabilities,
who have broken the prejudice barrier to
succeed, thrive, even become famous.
Albert Einstein
• The Mathematician/Physicist
who had a learning disability
and did
not speak until
age 3. He had a very difficult
time doing maths in school.
It was also very hard for him
to express himself through
Alexander Graham Bell
Had a learning
Stephen Hawkings
has Lou Gehrigs Disease
and is in a wheelchair.
•He needs a computer to
Franklin D. Roosevelt
• Roosevelt had Polio, was
governor of New York State
then elected President of the
United States for 4 terms.
George Washington
• Had a learning disability. He
could barely write and had
very poor grammar skills.
Lord Nelson
• Viscount Horatio Nelson is certainly Britain's
greatest naval hero. His skill as a naval
commander is, of course, well-documented. He
won crucial victories at Trafalgar in 1805 and the
Battle of the Nile in 1798, during the wars with
revolutionary and Napoleonic France. What is less
often remarked upon is that a great part of his
naval career and his major victories were won as a
disabled person. Going ashore in Corsica following
the fall of Toulon, a French shot flung debris into his
face leaving him without sight in his right eye. Later,
an assault on Tenerife resulted in a shattered right
elbow - back on his flagship the arm was
amputated. He carried on as a disabled seaman for
nearly ten years, securing his most important naval
victories at the Battle of the Nile and the infamous
Battle of Trafalgar - where he died on October 21,
1805. Contrary to popular belief, he didn't say "I
see no ships". Instead he said, during the Battle of
Copenhagen, "... I have only one eye. I have a right
to be blind sometimes" and, raising his telescope to
his blind eye, "I really do not see the signal".
• Spanish painter (1746-1828): At
age 46, an illness left him deaf. He
went on to create the most famous
Spanish art of the 19th century.
Lord Byron
• "Mad, bad and dangerous to know", Britain's great
romantic was also born with talipes, a club foot. It is
said that he "walked with difficulty but wandered at
will". He toured Europe extensively and captured the
popular imagination through his poetry and his
personality. Disability activist Tom Shakespeare
summed him up in the following way: "Most of his
poetry hasn't stood the test of time, but he was a
blockbuster in his day, and like very few other heroes,
his name is still used as an adjective - 'Byronic',
meaning dashing.”
Walt Disney
Walter Elias Disney (December 5, 1901 –
December 15, 1966) was a twenty-two
time Academy Award winning. American
film producer, director, screenwriter, voice
actor, animator, entrepreneur, visionary
and philanthropist. His name is a
household word among people who have
little or no knowledge of American film. It is
even familiar to children.
Walt had a learning disability
Walt became one of the best-known
motion picture producers in the world. He
was nominated for 48 Academy awards
and 7 Emmys, holding the record for most
Oscar nominations.
Sarah Bernhardt
•French actress (18441923) Disabled by a knee
injury, her leg amputated
in 1914, she continued
starring on stage until just
before her death. She is
regarded as France's
greatest actress -- "The
Divine Sarah".
Sudha Chandran
(Indian actress and
classical dancer) This brave
lady dances with a Jaipur
foot. She has acted in a
movie on classical dance
called "Nache Mayuri" &
today acts in a variety of TV
Tanni Grey-Thompson
Tanni Carys Davina Grey-Thompson OBE to give her full name and title - is the
disabled athlete that most people instantly
recognise. Formerly Tanni Grey - the
Thompson was added following her marriage
in 1999 - she has competed in Paralympic
Games since 1988, representing Britain at
distances ranging from 100m to 800m. She
has won fourteen paralympic medals
including nine golds, and has broken over
twenty world records. As a wheelchair
athlete she was also the winner of five
London marathons - in 1992, 1994, 1996,
1998 and 2001. In recent years, she has
established herself as a TV presenter including BBC TWO's From the Edge
disability magazine programme.
Tom Cruise
• Tom Cruise is quite possibly the
biggest movie star in the world. He
earns $20 million a picture, is sought
after by the world's top directors, and
with maturity is inching closer and
closer to the inevitable Oscar. He's
married to a beautiful movie star,
owns a fleet of expensive cars and
planes. Yes, Tom Cruise just might
be the luckiest man in the world. Not
bad for a high school drop-out from a
broken home who has battled
dyslexia and the vagaries of
Hollywood to achieve superstardom
on a truly global scale.
• What's more, for everyone listed as
"famous", there are thousands - millions,
even - of people with disabilities who are
quite competent in the jobs we do.
Besides, our value as people is not limited
to the economic wealth which we produce.
Every human, whether disabled or not, is a
unique and valuable individual. Parents,
children, carers , volunteers and amateurs
(ie unpaid enthusiasts) are not paid for the
work they do, but that certainly doesn't
mean they are of no value to society!

Famous People with Disabilities