10 Famous People with Disabilities

Many people in history have shown that a mere disability was not strong enough to break their confidence or willpower and live exceptional lives throughout the years.

Here is a list of 10 famous people with disabilities who conquered their condition, achieved greatness, and most importantly, inspired thousands of disabled people worldwide.

10 Famous People with Disabilities

1. Stephen Hawking (8th January – 14th March 2018)

The first one on the list of famous people with disabilities is Stephen Hawking. The world-famous scientist was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 1(ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, at the young age of 21.

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Hawking was told that he would only live for 3 more years, but he went on to live till 76. For thirty years of his life, he was paralyzed from head to toe and was confined to a wheelchair, and a voice synthesizer was used for him to communicate.

Hawking made sure that his disability did not interfere with his career and worked his way up. He served as a full-time mathematics professor at Cambridge University for 30 years and has received numerous honorary degrees over time.

During his time, he wrote many books, including the popular ‘A Brief History Of Time.’  He is also well known for his groundbreaking work on black holes and relativity.

Stephen Hawking, whose life was considered very inspiring by many disabled people across the world, was made into a film ‘The Theory Of Everything’ in 2014

2. Franklin Roosevelt (30th January 1882 – 12th April 1945)

The next among the list of famous people with disabilities include former President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt. In the year 1921, he was diagnosed with an illness called poliomyelitis disease, which is a condition that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

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The disease made him unable to walk or even move without support or assistance. He was told by doctors that there was no cure for his illness and that he would have to spend the rest of his life with that condition.

But the condition did not stop him. Though Franklin D. Roosevelt was a wheelchair user, he tried to simulate walking with the help of braces, clutches, and support.

He slowly gained control of his movements and established a successful political career and later on the president of the U.S.

The success of the United States in the Second World War and its rise from the catastrophic Great Depression2 are testimonials of Roosevelt’s wonderful presidency.

3. Frida Kahlo (6th July 1907 – 13th July 1954)

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist who contracted polio when she was just six years old. This sickness made one leg thinner and shorter than the other.

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Later on, in 1925, at the young age of 18, she met with an unexpected accident that resulted in a broken spine that further worsened her disability. During her period of recovery, her parents encouraged her to paint. She mostly painted herself alongside her disabilities.

Frida Kahlo spent most of her life bedridden, suffering unbearable pain. However, her strong heart believed that she did not need her legs as she had wings that helped her fly.

Her never-ending perseverance and grit made her one of the most popular painters in the world. She opposed gender stereotypes and was also a well-known cultural icon for the LGBTQ community.

Her work has been studied by art students worldwide, and she was also the first Mexican artist to have paintings displayed at the Louvre.

4. John Nash (June 13, 1928 – May 23, 2015)

The next among the list of famous people with disabilities includes world-famous mathematician John Nash, who suffered from Acute Paranoid Schizophrenia.3

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He continuously fought against illness and excelled in the field of mathematics. During his period, he taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University. He went on to win the Nobel prize for economics in the year 1994.

The award-winning film ‘A Beautiful Mind’ documented his experience of living with schizophrenia.

5. Andrea Bocelli

Andrea Bocelli is known for his amazing voice, but most don’t know that he is also one of the most famous people with disabilities. He was born with a condition called congenital glaucoma4 that left him partially blind.

By the age of 12, he had lost his full vision, but that did not stop him; he decided to concentrate on music and took piano lessons. His perseverance and grit made Andrea Bocelli a very successful singer, writer, and musician.

Over the years, Andrea Bocelli has sold about 75 million records, won numerous international awards, and even has a beach on Adriatic named after him.

6. Nick Vujicic

The next list of famous people with disabilities is Nick Vujicic, a popular celebrity with a disability. He was born with tetra-amelia syndrome5, with no limbs. Most people with this condition barely even make it past their infant stages. But Nick Vujicic did.

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He made sure that his disability did not limit him in his life. With the support and help of this family, he went on to graduate from Griffith University.

Later on, he found ‘Life Without Limbs’ – an organization for helping people who were missing one or two limbs. Apart from that, he is also a musician, actor, author, and motivational speaker who travels the world.

He is happily married and has four children, and is living his dream.

7. Daniel Radcliffe

The next among the list of famous people with disabilities is popular Harry Potter star, Daniel Radcliffe. The actor was very vocal about his living with dyspraxia6, a form of neurological condition that intervenes with mental processing, motor skills, memory, and other cognitive skills.

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At the very young age of 9 was having a hard time at school, so his mother encouraged him to audition for different plays, and that’s how he ended up in the Harry Potter series.

Daniel Radcliffe did not let his disability hold him back. He went on to make become a successful and popular actor. He even emphasized that some of the people he had met with learning disabilities were some of the smartest people.

According to him, hard work, determination, and grit will help anyone to overcome any challenges easily in life.

8. Millie Bobbie Brown

Popular Stranger Things actress Millie Bobbie Brown also features on the list of famous people with disabilities.

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The 13-year-old actor, who hails from Britain, is one of the most graceful and talented actors of her age, but many people also do not know that she is partially deaf.

In an interview with a popular magazine, she realized that after many years of tubes, she eventually lost all her hearing sense in one of her ears.

But her confidence did not stop her from doing what she loved the most, acting or singing. She believes that one shouldn’t stop doing what they love the most, how much ever bad they are, and stop caring about what the rest of the world thinks.

Millie Bobbie Brown now serves as an inspiration for kids worldwide who have been embarrassed because of their tubes or upset that their ears work differently than others.

9. Helen Keller

Helen Keller was born in Alabama, United States, in the year 1880. At just 18 months, she developed a fever that left her both blind and deaf.

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The loss of both senses led her to have great difficulty with language. With the help of amazing teacher Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller learned sign language and braille.

Later on, in life, she learned how to speak and became a strong advocate for disabled people. She also worked hard and became a successful American author known for her om stage adaptations.

Her books, including her autobiography, received international acclaim m, and Helen Keller remains a prominent figure in the literary world even after all these years.

Every year June 1st is remembered as Helen Keller day, and sight-related projects are implemented worldwide. Helen Keller to date remains the most inspiring among the other famous people with disabilities to lead an exceptional life.

10. Sudha Chandran

Sudha Chandran is a famous Indian dancer and doctor. She met with a horrific accident at the very young age of 16, which resulted in her losing her leg. But that did not stop her, and she danced with the help of a prosthetic leg.

Sudha Chandran on being an inspiration, struggles post accident, paving the path for specially-abled

She made her film debut with Mayuri, a film that tells her life story. For her performance in the film, she was awarded the Special Jury Award. Apart from that, she has been in numerous films, tv shows, and also a reality dance competition.

She is one of the most inspiring ones among famous people with disabilities in India. Her life story has been added as a part of the curriculum for young children in India and many countries worldwide.

Read more about other famous people with disabilities

Many people, including famous artists, celebrities, and politicians, have some disability or impairment. However, the most important thing to remember is that if you truly set your heart on something, no type of disability can stop you from achieving it.

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  1. Kiernan, Matthew C., et al. “Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.” The lancet 377.9769 (2011): 942-955. ↩︎
  2. Calomiris, Charles W. “Financial factors in the Great Depression.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 7.2 (1993): 61-85. ↩︎
  3. Lindenmayer, Jean-Pierre, Stanley R. Kay, and Lewis Opler. “Positive and negative subtypes in acute schizophrenia.” Comprehensive Psychiatry 25.4 (1984): 455-464. ↩︎
  4. Ho, Ching Lin, and David S. Walton. “Primary congenital glaucoma: 2004 update.” Journal of Pediatric Ophthalmology & Strabismus 41.5 (2004): 271-288. ↩︎
  5. Sousa, Sérgio B., et al. “Tetra‐amelia and lung hypo/aplasia syndrome: New case report and review.” American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A 146.21 (2008): 2799-2803. ↩︎
  6. Gibbs, John, Jeanette Appleton, and Richard Appleton. “Dyspraxia or developmental coordination disorder? Unravelling the enigma.” Archives of disease in childhood 92.6 (2007): 534-539. ↩︎

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Jenita T.J

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