Blog > August 2017 > 8 Famous People with Disabilities – Overcoming Disability and Following Passions

8 Famous People with Disabilities – Overcoming Disability and Following Passions



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Some famous people are particularly well known for their inspirational lives and accomplishments, something that is especially true for celebrities with disabilities. The individuals in this list have all overcome their disabilities in inspiring ways, emphasizing that disability doesn’t have to be a barrier to your passions. The following 8 people have all made incredible contributions to art, science, music, acting and sport.

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Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo is a renowned artist famous for her imaginative style and self-portraits. As a child, Frida was diagnosed with polio and, according to some accounts, she also had Spina Bifida. The famous artist was severely injured during a bus accident which left her with recurring physical pain for the rest of her life.

Despite her limited mobility and recurring pain, Frida Kahlo still emerged as one of the most influential and famous artists of the 20 th Century.


John Nash

John Nash was a decorated mathematician who made crucial contributions to geometry and game theory. During his adult life, John began to exhibit symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia and was admitted to several mental health institutes.

However, the acclaimed mathematician managed to overcome his disability and resume his successful career as an academic, being awarded with a Nobel Prize in Academics in 1994. John Nash’s incredible story is documented in the Academy Award-winning film, ‘A Beautiful Mind’.


Stephen Hawking

As one of the world’s most inspirational scientists, Stephen Hawking is famous for his contributions to theoretical physics and cosmology. When he was 21, Stephen was diagnosed with a progressive form of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Despite being given a life expectancy of 2 years; Stephen is now 75 years old and has continued to work as a scientist and only recently retired as a Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University.

Over time, Stephen Hawking’s disease resulted in comprehensive muscular paralysis, severely limiting his mobility and communication. However, Stephen was able to overcome the debilitating effects of ALS; using sensors on his neck to control a specialised powered wheelchair and communicating via a predictive voice synthesiser. The emotional and motivational story of Stephen Hawking’s life as a scientist, disability rights activist and family man, were broadcast to an international audience in the acclaimed romantic drama: ‘The Theory of Everything’. Stephen is scheduled to be the first person with ALS to travel to space after being given a seat on the Virgin Galactic spaceflight.


Nick Vujicic

Nick Vujicic is from Australia and is famous for founding ‘Life Without Limbs’, an organisation that helps support people with physical disabilities. Nick was born in 1982 without arms or legs and has been diagnosed with a rare disorder called Tetra-amelia Syndrome. He has spoken extensively about his difficult childhood as he experienced discrimination and bullying which lead him to attempt suicide.

After his mental and physical recovery, Nick learned to embrace his disability and became a renowned motivational speaker, appearing regularly on discussion panels and television programs. The poignant short film, ‘The Butterfly Circus’, brought Nick international acclaim after his starring role as a circus performer without limbs.


Andrea Bocelli

Andrea Bocelli is one of the most versatile vocalists of the 21 st Century and is widely recognised for his award-winning contributions to classical tenor, records and song-writing. Andrea Bocelli was born partially blind and would later be diagnosed with congenital glaucoma. This prevented him from playing the piano until he was six years old. However, by the age of 12, Andrea had become a musical maestro and was a proficient on piano, saxophone, trumpet, guitar, flute, trombone and drums. However, he became completely blind after suffering an injury at a football game.

Despite the loss of his sight, Andrea enrolled in law school and began to focus his musical talent on singing. After finishing law school, Andrea launched a career as a singer and song-writer, receiving numerous music awards and selling over 75 million records. A beach on Italy’s Adriatic Coast is named after Andrea Bocelli, in honour of the Italian singer’s prodigious skill as a musician.


Michael J. Fox

Famous for his leading role as Marty McFly in the ‘Back to the Future’ trilogy, Michael J. Fox is the founder and a prominent representative of the Michael J. Fox foundation, an organisation that has raised $233 million to fund and advance research into curing Parkinson’s Disease. He was 29 years old when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease which affects the central nervous system.

After learning about his disability, Michael continued to pursue acting for several years before switching his focus to raising awareness and money for research and therapy into Parkinson’s disease. After being diagnosed, Michael initially suffered from depression and alcoholism, but the famous actor eventually learned to overcome the mental and physical challenges of his disability. Today, he is renowned for his role as a disability rights activist and is well-known for his upbeat, comedic and hopeful outlook on life.


Alex Zanardi

Alex Zanardi is a celebrated Italian racing driver and successful Paralympian. The Italian sportsman has competed in several professional races, including: Formula One, sports car racing and the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) series. Alex life was turned upside down when both of his legs were amputated after being involved in a terrible accident during a CART race.

Three years after his accident, Alex made his return to racing, driving a modified BMW that he had adapted with hand controls. Despite the challenges of his physical disability, Alex has gone on to win four World Touring Car Championships. In 2007, Alex switched sports and began training as a professional cyclist, using an adapted hand cycle. Since the switch, Alex has competed in two Paralympic Games and has won three gold medals.


Aaron Fotheringham

Aaron ‘Wheelz’ Fotheringham is a motivational and talented sportsman, celebrated around the world for his talent as a skater and extreme sports athlete. Aaron was born with Spina Bifida and by the time he was a teenager, he become unable to walk and had to use a wheelchair.

However, despite his disability, Aaron was determined to push his body to the limits and began practicing tricks in the skate park, pioneering a new sport he calls extreme wheelchair riding. In 2006, he made history by successfully landing a backflip while in his wheelchair. In 2011, he landed his first wheelchair front flip. His determination in the face of adversity continues to be a source of inspiration for people around the world.


The lives of these 8 celebrities with disabilities shows that ‘having a disability’ is not something that should restrict your dreams and ambitions. The famous people in this list are recognised internationally for their inspiring lives yet, every day, thousands of regular people are also overcoming disabilities in their own unique and moving ways.

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