As a disabled person it can often be hard to recognise ourselves in the celebrities and famous people we see in print, and on TV. But it doesn’t always have to be this way!
A common complaint amongst those living within the disabled community is that there is a serious lack of disability representation within the mainstream media – something which we touched upon in another recent blog post titled; ‘Disability in the Media: The Highs and Lows’ – so feel free to check that out.
But what would you say if you found out that there are many celebrities and other famous people who are currently active within popular culture today who, in fact, have some form of disability themselves? You may be surprised to find out that it’s not as uncommon as you might think.
There are many sobering reminders that our most cherished celebrities are they themselves mere mortals. One only has to look as far as Michael J. Fox and Billy Connolly to see an example of two well-respected actors and comedians, respectively, who are now both living with Parkinson’s Disease. Indeed, Michael J. Fox has made a number of acting appearances since his diagnosis, and Billy Connolly has continued to produce TV shows and commit to stand-up comedy gigs – both highlighting and demonstrating their disabilities, and the fact that it doesn’t entirely limit them. An empowering message for us all, no doubt.
But what about other examples of disabled people overcoming adversity and rising to a level of fame within the mainstream public concensus? Here are 14 examples of famous people, past and present, who also happen(ed) to be disabled.
- RJ Mitte – most famous for his role playing the son of Walter White in hit AMC show; Breaking Bad, RJ Mitte is an actor living with Cerebral Palsy.
- Robin Williams – before his untimely death, the actor and comedian had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Williams also had ADHD as a child and was diagnosed with bipolar as an adult.
- Daniel Radcliffe – the Harry Potter star suffers from dyspraxia, a neurological condition which impairs organisation and movement.
- Christopher Reeve – almost synonymous with his portrayal of Superman, Reeve later suffered a spinal cord injury and was a quadraplegic for the remainder of his life. Reeve spent his later years dedicating his life to spinal cord injury research.
- Elton John – the world-famous musician has struggled with epilepsy for many years.
- Stevie Wonder – the much-loved singer and pianist has been blind since he was a baby.
- Sudha Chandran – is an extremely talented Indian dancer and actress who, following an accident, had her right leg amputated and continued to gain a highly successful career in her industry.
- Stephen Hawking – the brilliant mind of Physicist, Stephen Hawking, helped propel him to mass fame. Hawking, who famously wrote the book ‘A Brief History of Time’, lived with Motor Neuron Disease.
- Millie Bobby Brown – the Stranger Things actress lives with partial hearing loss, leading to difficulties hearing herself, and co-stars, during performances.
As well as famous actors, actresses, musicians, comedians, and even scientists who live(d) their lives with a form of disability – there’s also examples within the political sphere. Here are some examples:
- Lenin Moreno – the Ecuadorian president happens to also be a paraplegic, and subsequently, a wheelchair user. This has led to increased awareness of disability issues in Ecuador, and an upturn in accessibility – especially in the capital city of Quito.
- Freyja Haraldsdottir – as a politician and disability rights activist, Haraldsdottir is famous in Iceland, she also lives with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (brittle bones).
- David Blunkett – a former British politician, is blind and uses a guide dog and Braille text. He rose to the position of Home Secretary in the UK, with the Labour Party.
In terms of sports personalities living with a disability, there are many examples of amazing athletes competing at the Paralympic games, but there are also some examples of sports stars competing on a mainstream (non-disabled) sports level! Here are two examples of stand-out performers both from the Paralympic scene and beyond.
- Ihar Boki – the visually impaired Belarusian swimmer was the most decorated athlete at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
- Shaquem Griffin – in 2018 Griffin became the first ever one-handed player to be selected to play in the National Football League (NFL) in the United States. Griffin was born with Constriction Ring Syndrome, which affected his hand, and led to its amputation.
So there you have it, a fine selection of celebrities, politicians, and sports stars – all living with some form of disability or impairment. It’s important to remember that if you yourself have a disability, you’re not alone – and you can achieve just about anything that you put your mind to!