News Article

Celebrating some Achievements of the Disabled Community

Helen Keller

Helen Keller's Life and Legacy - Helen Keller International

Born in Alabama in 1880, Helen Keller went on to be one of the most well-known activists in the world. Following a childhood illness, Keller became deaf and blind. With the assistance of her teacher Anne Sullivan, Keller learned to communicate in a variety of ingenious ways including Braille and placing her fingers against other’s throats to understand what they were saying.

She went on to attend the prestigious Harvard University, where she became the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in the US. Keller rose to prominence through her writing, initially as a magazine writer and later as a prolific author of books and essays. Her writing spanned a range of topics, from animals to labour rights.

A committed activist throughout her life, she was an active campaigner for a number of causes ranging from worker’s rights to women’s suffrage. She is best known for her efforts to improve the lives of deaf people and blind people, supporting organisations such as the American Foundation for the Blind. Her achievements were recognised in 1964 with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


Franklin D Roosevelt

Disability History: Presidents and Disability (U.S. National Park Service)

Roosevelt is one of the best known and influential presidents in American history. Consistently highly regarded by historians and commentators, he was responsible for a number of progressive policies including the New Deal and Civil Rights initiatives. Due to a childhood bout of Polio, Roosevelt was paralysed in both legs and used a wheelchair and crutches for much of his life.

He firmly believed that his impairment strengthened his political will to support progressive causes, and considered himself an example of what was possible for disabled people when they were properly supported.


Harriet Tubman

Tubman is renowned for her contributions to the abolition of slavery in the United States. Born in about 1820, a brain injury from being beaten by a slave owner resulted in her developing epilepsy. Her seizures persisted throughout her life. She escaped slavery in Maryland in 1849 and became a conductor on the Underground Railroad. 

She helped hundreds of families reach freedom from slavery through a network of connections. She was a well known abolitionist leading up to the Civil War, and worked as a spy for the Union Army during the war. After the war, she dedicated her life to working for better conditions for former slaves. The U.S. Treasury department plans to make Tubman the face of the $20 bill.


Stevie Wonder

Wonder was born in Michigan in 1950. He was born six weeks premature with an eye disorder that meant he was blind since birth. He immediately stood out as a musical talent in childhood, and had already signed with his first record label by the age of 11. He quickly made his skills known with multiple chart hits in the 1960s, and was highly accomplished at multiple instruments which he taught himself how to play as a child.

He worked with famous Motown musicians to release numerous R&B hits. As an adult in 1971, he signed a new contract which meant he received more royalties and retained much more control over his records than before. It allowed him the artistic freedom to pursue his musical career that produced hit songs like ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ and ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’. 

Wonder has also played a significant role in social activism throughout his life, working to raise money for charities such as the American Foundation for AIDS Research and advocating for better services for people with disabilities. In recognition of his work, he was made a Messenger of Peace by the United Nations in 2009.

Frida Kahlo

An iconic painter born in Mexico in 1907, Kahlo is best known for her self-portraits. She had polio in childhood and was injured in a trolley crash at 18, which resulted in pain that she would carry with her for the rest of her life. She was hospitalised for a month and could not return to school after spending three months recovering. The accident changed the course of her life—she had originally intended to be a doctor, but instead became the artist whose work is still celebrated today.

Kahlo’s artwork explores complex and intense emotional themes. She had a challenging relationship with Diego Rivera, and her relationships influenced many of her well-known works. Her art also addressed themes of politics, gender, pain, and passion, taking inspiration from her home in Mexico and the experiences she had throughout her life to create the works we know today.


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