The Five Most Famous Wheelchair Users
In the face of great mobility challenges, countless world-changers have done so from their wheelchairs. Who comes to your mind? Here’s our list of the top five famous wheelchair users:
1. Franklin D Roosevelt
Did you know that the 32nd President of the United States was also a wheelchair user through much of his life and even through his presidency? When FDR was 39 years old, he became ill with what doctors now believe was Polio while on a family vacation. Eventually the sickness caused Roosevelt to become paralized from the waist down, but he was determined to regain control of his legs.
Through trying a wide range of therapies, even the hydrotherapy available in the early 1920s, Roosevelt was able to walk short distances with the help of iron braces and a cane. Roosevelt never used his wheelchair in public, and reportedly went to great lengths to conceal his wheelchair use from the american public during his election and presidency. This is likely due to the discrimination felt against those with disabilities at the time.
Franklin D Roosevelt remains the only president to have been elected to four presidential terms, lasting from 1933 to 1945.
2. Frida Kahlo
Known for her infamous, vibrant self portraits, Mexican Painter Frida Kahlo was involved in a bus accident at just 18 years old. The crash would leave her with physical ailments and mobility issues for the rest of her life.
Many of Frida’s works were inspired by the pain she experienced after the accident and into adulthood. Even today, Frida Kahlo’s art is world renowned at appreciated for its unique voice on gender, race, and sexuality.
3. Stephen Hawking
It’s well known that ground-breaking quantum theory physicist used a wheelchair. At 21, Stephen was hit with the diagnosis of ALS and given just two years to live. He challenged that morbid diagnoses by living to be 76 years old and learning to communicate despite suffering from near total body paralysis.
Stephen Hawking famously wrote “A Brief History of Time”, first published in 1988. Hawking wrote the book for non-specialist readers with no prior knowledge of scientific theories, though his extensive work and specialty in black holes lead him to discover they emitted radiation.
4. Christopher Reeves
Otherwise known as Superman, Christopher Reeves was a famous actor. With over 45 acting credits to his name, Reeves left his mark in the world of theater and television.
Following a horse riding accident, Reeves was left paralized and wheelchair bound. However, this did not dim his enthusiasm and he went on to found the Christopher Reeves Foundation which raises money for people with spinal cord injuries and the research of stem cells.
Chistopher Reeves also co-founded the Reeve-Irvine Research Center and was a renowned writer, director, and activist.
5. Barbara Jordan
The first black Texan in Congress and the first black woman elected to the Texas State Senate, Barbara Jordan was no stranger to adversity. Jordan suffered from multiple sclerosis and was largely confined to her wheelchair, but decidedly kept public focus off of her illness throughout her life.
Barbara Jordan was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994.