While some people (understandably) see their disabilities as limitations that will defy their destinies in life and stop them from achieving their dreams, others have sworn not to allow their disabilities to interfere with their life’s journey. These people determined to become living proofs that anyone can overcome their obstacles and accomplish anything they desire. They live their extraordinary lives to inspire millions of people in the world never to give up their dreams. Here is the list of ten extraordinarily inspiring people who overcame their disabilities and never quit.
Helen Adams Keller was born on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama. At the age of 2, she was stricken by an illness that produced a high body temperature which left her blind and deaf. The exact nature of her illness remains a mystery, and some experts believe that it might have been meningitis or scarlet fever. As a result of the loss of her sight and hearing, she was not able to speak clearly. Helen was sent to Anne Sullivan Macy, a remarkable teacher who has a creative approach to teaching to teach her how to read and write and to become her tutor. Within months with under the skillful and patient guidance of Anne Sullivan, Helen Kellen had learned to feel objects and associate their names by the letters spelled out on her palm. She had learned to read printed sentences by touching the raised letters on every slip of cardboard and write her own sentences by arranging words in a frame. She has learned to lip-read by placing her fingers on the lips and throats of the speaker.
Helen was the first blind and deaf person to get a Bachelor of Arts degree. As she grew older, she wanted to help other people who suffered disabilities like herself. Helen began her career as a public lecturer, social activist, author and advocate for people with disabilities. She wanted to encourage people not to give up, inspire them and give them hope. Helen spent much of her life working to raise awareness for people with disabilities and become an inspirational figure for accomplishing many things despite being both deaf and blind. She proved enough to the world that people who are deaf and blind can also gain an equal opportunity for education and change the world’s view of people with disabilities.
Jessica Cox is a Filipino-American who was born without arm due to a rare birth defect. She is the world’s first licensed armless pilot and as well as the first armless double black-belt in the American Taekwondo Association. Even though she was born with this rare congenital disease, she believes that with commitment and resilience, everyone can overcome any challenge and pursue their dreams with positivity. Jessica can write, type, comb her hair, drive a car, play the piano and make phone calls all by just using her feet. And she does effortlessly.
Jessica has no restriction driving license, can fly a plane and type 25 words per minute. She describes herself as being differently abled, not disabled, a term which focuses on abilities rather than disabilities. Jessica’s goal is to motivate people around the world on how to overcome new challenges with determination, never doubt their abilities, and inspire enthusiasm to live life to the fullest. She became an inspirational speaker where she uses her own life as an example of what one can achieve if one is creative, persistent and fearless and inspired thousands to overcome their obstacles. She also becomes an advocate to promote disability rights for people with disabilities to achieve equal rights.
At the age of 2, Ben Underwood was diagnosed with retinal cancer and had both eyes removed at the age of 3. He was able to detect the location of objects by making clicking noises with his tongue. Because of his lack of sight, he learned how to perceive his surroundings with human echolocation, which is the ability to determine objects in an environment by sensing echoes from those objects after creating sounds. Ben has mastered his ability to accomplish his favorite activities of skateboarding, rollerblading, riding a bicycle, playing basketball and football.
Ben gained instant popularity from YouTube from his videos of his echolocation abilities with millions of views and was invited to share his skills on Oprah and The Ellen Show. When he turned 15, his cancer returned, and after several failed chemo treatments, he decided to stop the treatments and live his last moments at home with his family in peace. He died the age of 16, and his funeral was attended by thousands of people who were touched by Ben’s great diligence and aspiration. After his death, his story continues to spread around the world and has been included in textbooks in schools from many countries to continue to inspire and change lives.
Stephen Hawking is one of the world’s renowned British physicist and cosmologist. Despite being diagnosed with a rare disease called ALS, short for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is a terminal illness that wears away the nerve and muscle function over time, he refused to give up his intellectual pursuits of explaining the nature of time, black holes and the origin of the universe during his long career at Cambridge University. He believed that “however bad life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.”
Despite the progressively debilitating illness that gradually paralyzed him over the decades, he continued to travel to conferences to share his knowledge of science to the public and his book, A Brief History of Time, has helped people have more accessible knowledge to science and which is the work that brought him worldwide fame. Stephen is regarded as the world’s most brilliant scientist because of his intellectual and famous for his amazing discoveries and undying spirit while living with the distressing condition of incurable motor neuron disease. For more than a half-century, he contributed so much to the fields of cosmology, general relativity, and quantum gravity and became an inspiration to everyone, especially those who have disabilities.
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven is considered the most famous and greatest classical composer in history. He is known for his musical genius in composing intense and exciting music while being completely deaf. After already building his reputation as a musician and composer, he began to lose his hearing at the age of 26. The cause of his deafness remains a mystery. Many believe that the many blows to the head by his abusive father might cause Beethoven’s deafness. Even while the deafness continues to worsen, it did not stop him from composing even more powerful music and created some of his greatest works.
When he detected that his hearing became entirely gone by the age of 45, he refused to appear in public and let anyone know about his condition, believing that it will destroy his career as a pianist. He only selected a few friends to visit him and communicate with them through notebooks. He retreated from public life, became very private and entirely dedicated himself to composition over time. Beethoven was able to compose a piece of music by knowing the language of music and the rules of how music is made. He is widely known for being an extraordinary musician and being influential to many composers.
Christy Brown was an Irish writer and painter born in Crumlin, Dublin, Ireland on June 5, 1932. When he was an infant, it was discovered that he had cerebral palsy, a disorder which left him unable to control any of his limbs because they were paralyzed entirely apart from his left foot which was not affected. When the doctors considered him mentally disabled, but his mother refuses to have him confined to a convalescent hospital and taught him how to read and use his left foot to write and type.
Brown overcame his physical disabilities to create noble paintings, write poetry and novels. Throughout the course of his life, he displayed his keen interest in the arts and literature. In 1954, his published autobiography, My Left Foot, become highly recognized and in 1989, was made into an Award-winning Academy film with Daniel Day-Lewis starring as Brown. He produced hundreds of paintings, a classic memoir, four novels and four books of poetry all just by using the toes of his left foot. Brown’s fame continues to spread worldwide, and he became a well-known personality.
Patrick Henry Hughes
Patrick Henry Hughes is an American multi-instrumental musician who was born without eyes and without the ability to fully straighten his arms and legs, making him unable to walk. Despite his limiting physical condition, he excels as being a musician, performer, and public speaker. At the age of nine months old, his father introduced him to a piano and taught him how to play with it by listening to the different notes and learning the keys. By the age of two, Patrick could play a song on the piano after hearing it once and took song requests.
He learns how to use several instruments and sing at his school. In the University of Louisville School, Patrick joined the Louisville Marching Band, playing the trumpet with the help of his father who maneuvers his wheelchair on the field with the other hundreds of members of the Cardinal Marching Band. Patrick had participated and won numerous competitions as a pianist, vocalist and trumpet player. His winning awards has had him featured to be on multiple channels which include Oprah, The Ellen Show, FOX-TV, ESPN, CBS-TV, NBC-TV, and many more.
Marla Runyan is the first legally blind American track and field athlete, road runner and marathon runner to compete in the Olympic track. At the age of nine, she was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a form of progressive damage of the macula that left her legally blind. Despite her loss of vision, she didn’t let stand in the way of her dreams of being an athlete. She had participated in several athletic competitions which are the heptathlon, 200-meter dash, 100-meter hurdle, high jump, long jump, shot put, javelin throw, and the 800-meter run. In 1992, She had won five gold medals for the Barcelona Paralympics and in 1999, won a gold medal in the 1500-meter race at the Pan American Games.
In the New York City Marathon, she was regarded as a world-class runner with the record as a second-fastest debut time by a woman. She has several American awards and records for various running events. Marla has used her achievements and personal profile to inspire many people that having a physical disability does not define who a person is. She never thought of her blindness as an obstruction to become a great athlete and had shown that through one’s determination, perseverance, passion, and self-belief could make what seem impossible to be possible.
Annie Clark, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a first-grade student without hands who won a national penmanship award at Wilson Christian Academy in West Mifflin. She became the first recipient of the Nicholas Maxim Award, from the Zaner-Bloser language arts and reading company that recognizes disabled students with exceptional handwriting skills. Along with the Nicholas Maxim Special Award for Excellent Penmanship. She also received a trophy, a bouquet and $1,000.
Annie had demonstrated how she writes with a pencil which is by having a pencil wedged between her forearms. According to her parents, Tom and Mary Ellen Clark, it is the same method that Annie uses to dress, eat, paint her toenails, uses a computer and open soda cans without needing help. She can even ride a bike and swim. She has determined that there is nothing that she can’t do even with missing parts of her forearms. Annie was born in China without having hands. She was adopted by the Clarks who have also adopted two other Chinese children with disabilities to give them the opportunity to excel and live a fulfilling life.
Nick Vujicic was born in 1982 in Melbourne, Australia, without arms or legs. Despite being diagnosed with the rare Tetra-amelia syndrome, he refused to allow his physical condition to limit his chance at life and was determined to use his ‘disability’ as a mission to change people’s lives by showing that even though he is born without limbs, he has the capacity to overcome any circumstances in life. During his childhood, Nick dealt with the typical challenges at school and adolescent, such as bullying and discrimination, but he also suffered from depression and loneliness while he questioned why he was born so different from all the other kids.
After graduating from college at the age of 21, he found the purpose of his existence which is to show and inspire people around the world that they can accomplish as many things as they want by doing most of the things he loves to do like fishing, painting, and swimming to show that anything is possible. He became a Christian evangelist and motivational speaker who travel around the world to motivate and instill hope in millions of people.