People who became famous in spite of their disability

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Elders say “health is wealth,” which I think is a profound statement because if you have your health you have the world at your feet. You can achieve anything you want.

What if you were born with a disability? Just the thought scares you right? You don’t need to be born with a disability (or differently able, as it is polite to say) you can also contract a disability while you are a kid. Some of us even become differently abled after we grow up.

It is hard to imagine, isn’t it? I for one get very scared to think of growing up with a disability. Life isn’t the same. Or so we think? I wasn’t sure. That’s when I thought, let me try and figure out the top five people in the world who have lived with a health disability and yet proved to the World that they can kick some mighty ass.

Here goes my list of people who proved willpower is more important than health. People who proved to the rest of the world that it would take a lot more than a missing limb or some chemical imbalance (chemical locha) in the brain to hold them down. People who became famous in spite of their disability.

Hellen Keller, Disability: Deaf-Blind, (1880-1968)

Hellen Keller had contracted a disability by her second birthday – she had become a deaf-blind. Imagine not being able to hear sounds and not being able to see things and being only two years old. The very thought scares the shit out of me.

In spite of this disability, Hellen Keller learned to read and write and guess what became the first deaf blind person to get a bachelor degree. Hellen Keller could have been happy with the bachelor degree but no. She then started working for disability rights, social welfare, women rights. She had such a strong personality that nobody could say a “No” to Hellen Keller. Today she is the most famous disable person ever.

Ludwig Van Beethoven, Disability: Deafness, (1770-1827)

Imagine being a World-renowned musician and losing your ability to hear sounds when at the age of 30. This is exactly what happened with Ludwig Van Beethoven – he contracted the disability at 30 and by the time he was 40 he lost his hearing completely. Not the right ability to lose for a musician.

For a normal musician, that would have been the end of the road but not for Ludwig Van Beethoven. He kept going and came up with his best work after 40 – and became famous in spite of his disability.

It is believed that Ludwig Van Beethoven had some special powers, which helped him create music at the speed and quality at which he did. His compositions have enthralled generations of music lovers and continue to inspire musicians of all age and genre. He is perhaps the most famous musician today and many don’t believe when told that he had a disability – that of hearing.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Disability: Polio, (1882-1945)

Franklin D. Roosevelt is one of the most inspirational politicians to have lived. He was the President of US at the most difficult time possible – the time of the great depression and World War II. Franklin D. Roosevelt led the country out of it on both the occasions.

When he was 39 years old he was stricken with polio and was paralyzed waist down. Not a disability one can live with easily, especially if you have to lead the active life of a politician. Any normal person would have given up but not Roosevelt. He went on to be the President of United States of America from March 1933 to his death in April 1945 – for a record four terms. Sometimes he is also referred to as the wheelchair President.

Franklin D. Roosevelt is regarded as as one of the top three U.S. Presidents, in the company of the slavery abolisher Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Surely, disability didn’t stop him from becoming famous.

Stephen Hawking, Disability: Lou Gehrig’s disease, (1942-Now)

Stephen Hawking was a regular 21-year science student at Cambridge when he was diagnosed with a motor neuron disease called Lou Gehrig’s disease. Lou Gehrig’s disease has gradually paralyzed Stephen Hawking and today the only muscle he can move in his body is his cheek muscle. He has a speech-generating device using which he communicates with rest of the World. This is perhaps the most dooming disability.

A normal man would have given up but Stephen Hawking was made of sterner stuff. In spite of his disability he went on and proved to the world that he can lead a life of his own. His books on various topics (such as A Brief History of Time, On the Shoulders of Giants, The Universe in a Nutshell etc) have made him a famous man. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and today teaches at University of Cambridge.

John Nash, Disability: Schizophrenia, (1928-Now)

John Nash is an American mathematician, who has struggled with Schizophrenia for a good part of his life and yet gone on to win a Nobel Prize for mathematics. John Nash is know for what he called “Nash Equilibrium” which has made Economics and Economic predictions easier.

Around the time he turned 30 he started behaving abnormally and complained that there were people following him around. He was diagnosed and sent to hospital for paranoid schizophrenia. As treatment he was administered insulin shock therapy as well. Thanks to schizophrenia, John Nash was no longer the brilliant mathematician he used to be. Instead, he became delusional and an irritant to people around him. In other words now he had a disability and he was yet to learn to deal with his disability.

Any normal man would have given up mathematics and gone and lived in a dark room in the basement, but John Nash was a lot tougher than that. With support from his wife, his friends, his colleagues and his own will to lead an exemplary life he overcame Schizophrenia and eventually won the Nobel price in 1994.

John Nash’s life was made into a movie titled A Beautiful Mind, a real tribute to a man who became famous in spite of his disability.

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