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Successful People with Disabilities

Written by: Iris

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Life is extremely beautiful. Its splendor lies on tons of ambiguities. There are moments in our lives when we are wonderfully ecstatic, but there are also those painful times that bring us to tears and misery. Indeed, our existence is full of these bittersweet elements, but it is just the perfect concoction in living a meaningful life- we are strengthened by our hardships and we are motivated by our goals.



"Our real disabilities come from inside us, don't tell yourself you can't do something. Keep on trying, and if one way doesn't work... try another."

For people with disabilities, there may be a superfluous difficulty in doing some of their daily activities. Each task that they need to complete entails an additional struggle, and every trip to victory is an extra complicated journey. But the success stories of these people who have realized their abilities, who have blossomed despite their physical challenges, who have encouraged others and enthused them with so much inspiration and enthusiasm, are tremendously astonishing. Truly, what they lack in physical capacity, they make up for in fervor and determination. Here are just a few of the amazing people who have touched the world in overcoming their disabilities by using their gifts, pure talents and incessant hard work.


1. Nick Vujicic

Image Source: Nick Vujicic speaking in a church in Ehringshausen, Germany - 20110401-02 by Christliches Medienmagazin pro thru Flickr: Nick Vujicic, uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Lymantria (talk) using Flickr upload botand can be reused under the CC BY license.


Nick Vujicic is an Australian Christian evangelist and a motivational speaker. He was born with a rare disorder called “tetra-amelia syndrome”, which is characterized by the absence of the extremities. Although his life while growing up was never easy, he used his disability to motivate others in finding their purpose in life, and at the age of 17, he was able to build a non-profit organization called “Life Without Limbs”. He has traveled to over 54 countries, conducting speeches with an aim to help others find the meaning in life through God’s words. Nick continuously gives inspiration not only to the people with disabilities, but to those who are struggling with life’s battles.  




2. Marla Runyan

Marla Runyan is an American athlete and a world-class runner. She came to terms with her disability and began engaging in a number of sporting events in high school. She took gold during the pentathlon, and silver in the shot put at the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta. She became the first ever legally blind athlete to compete in the Olympics when she placed eighth for a 1500-meter track. She is a 5-time gold medalist at the Paralympic Games and finished the 2002 New York Marathon in 2 hours, 27 minutes and 10 seconds, which was considered as the 2nd fastest time achieved by an American woman during that time.




3. Michelle Banks

Michelle Banks is an African-American actress and founder of the Onyx Theatre Company. Her spinal meningitis caused her to lose her hearing at the age of 1. She studied American Sign Language at an early age and then attended the well-known institution for the deaf- the Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. She has shown great interest in performing and didn’t use her disability as an excuse for expressing her passion for the theater arts. She gained a bachelor’s degree in drama studies and has established her very own theatre company, Onyx, when she was still an undergraduate. The said company has deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing actors. From then on, Michelle has been a part of numerous works and productions, and has achieved several recognitions.  




4. Stephen Hawking  

Stephen Hawking is a world-renowned English physicist. He is wheelchair bound, could only speak with the use of a computer, and is almost completely paralyzed due to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS, which was diagnosed when he was 21. Despite his condition, he expressed his keen interest to study the universe, which focuses on the framework of the general relativity, as well as quantum gravity. He discovered the Hawking radiation and worked together with Roger Penrose creating the Penrose-Hawking theorems. His theories and concepts on cosmology gained tremendous success in the field of popular science.




5. Kim Peek

Kim Peek was a prodigious, American savant. He was diagnosed with FG syndrome, which is a genetic condition that causes physical irregularities and developmental delays. It is associated to his extraordinary memory. At the age of 16-20 months, Kim was able to memorize things and read books. Kim can scan a book’s left page using his left eye, and do the same on the right page with his right eye.  He was able to finish a book in an hour and could retain all the information on what he has read. According to The Times newspaper, Kim could remember the contents from around 12,000 books. Though in the movie “Rain Man”, the character of Raymond Babbitt was an autistic (portrayed by Dustin Hoffman), it was inspired by Kim. He died at his home, due to a heart attack on December 19, 2009.




These people have proven that their abilities were actually more powerful than their disabilities. Not only did they actualize their own aspirations, but they continually intensify the faith and resolution within the millions of people who are touched by their triumph.


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*Primary Image Source: Flickr by arvind grover via photopin (license)