The men and woman on this list exemplify humanity’s ability to triumph over adversity. All of us will have to overcome challenges throughout our lives, but few will have to do so from the seat of a wheelchair.
That didn’t stop the people on this list. From glorious paintings to theorizing cosmological physics, here are seven icons who inspired us to look past their disability.
RIP Stephen Hawking
January 8, 1942 – March 14 ,2018
1. Stephen Hawking
He grew from inspiring scientists and university students to inspiring humanity. Stephen Hawking’s body of work in physics in commonly seen as some of the most important of our time. Along with this, however, he was seen as someone who prevailed when all was set against him. He lost most of the function of his limbs and his ability to speak. But he continued to work and create some of the greatest scientific works humanity’s ever seen.
2. Franklin D. Roosevelt
It has been nearly a century since the American people chose to look past a presidential candidate’s disability. And with this choice, FDR brought us relief and rejuvenation in one of the hardest times in American history. He fought his illness and to a great extent won. It was with this renewed energy he was able to motivate the American people with the words “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
3. Christopher Reeve
In the hospital room, shortly after Christopher Reeve’s injury, he told his wife that maybe they should let him go. His wife responded “I’ll be with you for the long haul, no matter what. You’re still you. And I love you.” Christopher Reeve never considered suicide again, and it’s to the betterment of society that he didn’t. The man who so excellently played Superman on film went on to become one in real life with his advocacy work on behalf of people with spinal cord injuries.
4. Nick Vujicic
Nick Vujicic could be the most inspiring person on the planet and he’s pretty aware of it. His first book is titled Life Without Limits: Inspiration of a Ridiculously Good Life. And he’s not lying. He has an extremely successful speaking career, a beautiful wife with two children and he continues to write and inspire. Nick was born without limbs and is the only known survivor out of seven to do so.
5. Frida Kahlo
It was only through Frida’s accident that her talent was born. It’s the kind of story that inspires superhero stories. Before becoming a painter, Frida wanted to be a doctor. But after a horrific trolley accident Frida lost the function of her legs. During her recovery she was left with time to think about her future and make sense of her situation. She began to create and along with becoming one of the greatest painters of her era, she became an activist for the people.
6. Aaron Fotheringham
When Aaron landed the first ever wheelchair front flip, the first person to congratulate him was his mother. No doubt, he’s put his mother under a lot of stress through the years with his daredevil lifestyle, but they both know it’s how he wants to live his life and that it’s worth the inspiration it provides. He’s performed in many competitions since he was a kid and practically invented the sport he named “WCMX” (Wheelchair Motocross).
7. Teddy Pendergrass
When Teddy Pendergrass made his first appearance on stage since his accident in front of 100,000 people and possibly 1.5 billion television viewers, the world erupted with empathy and emotion. Teddy was a talented, good looking and proud man. He struggled to come back into the spotlight as an artist, but when he did, the world embraced him like never before.