“Disability.” For many, the word is loaded with preconceived notions. By definition meaning an inability to pursue an occupation because of a physical or mental impairment, disqualification, restriction, or disadvantage. Unfortunately, the word disability is often synonymous with idea of inability. To us, that seems like the wrong perspective to have. Mobility impairment, for example, may be challenging, but has produced some of the most inspirational stories and unique experiences (like wheelchair tai chi!) around.
This happens because there are people who completely redefine the meaning of disability. These people achieve, succeed, and excel both in spite and because of their disabilities. Refusing to cower in the shadow of their seeming disadvantages, these people provide testaments to the indomitable human spirit that can rise to the challenge and surpass it.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
The 32nd President of the United States and the only president to serve four terms in office, F.D. Roosevelt is one of the most beloved U.S. presidents, as well as one of the most admired U.S. citizens. Diagnosed with polio (or Guillain-Barre syndrome), Roosevelt became paralyzed from the waist down. However, he taught himself how to walk using iron leg braces. Undeterred by his illness, he was best known for successfully leading the United States through the Great Depression and WWII (as depicted in the clip below from the movie Pearl Harbor).
Now a professional surfer and award-winning athlete, Bethany Hamilton’s career could have been cut short after a shark bit off her left arm. However, rather than abandoning her dreams, Bethany kept surfing, winning 1st place in the 2005 NSSA National Championships and, in 2008, started competing professionally in the Association of Surfing Professionals. Her determination has made nationwide news as she has been featured on such shows as 20/20, Good Morning America, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Tonight Show, and many others.
Diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease at 21, Stephen Hawking subsequently lost his abilities to walk, talk, swallow, hold his head upright, and breathe without assistance, leaving him almost completely paralyzed. Despite these physical barriers, Hawking became a world-renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist whose work is not known only within academia, but also within popular culture through his various publications. Hawking is best known for his contributions to the fields of cosmology and quantum gravity, specifically related to his knowledge of black holes.
What is your favorite success story? What motivates you to overcome challenges?