Inspiring Disabled Persons News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on inspiring disabled persons
Andrew Short lives with spastic cerebral palsy, which he contracted during birth. Cerebral palsy is a disorder that effects muscle tone, movement and motor skills, but despite impaired speech Andrew’s disability doesn’t impair his mind, and he learned to read early. “I speak three languages,” said Andy. “English, German, and spastic. Spastic is my mother tongue." Andrew is currently completing a Masters Degree in Disability Studies, but his most impressive achievement has been walking the Kokoda Trail, which he describes as “the toughest physical challenge of [his] life”. In Andy’s late twenties, his motor function appeared to begin deteriorating. “We were told to accept that that's what it would be,” said [Andrew's father] David. Instead, David and Andrew began researching the emerging field of neuroplasticity ... inspired by the seminal [book], “The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science”. Andrew’s physical condition is due in part to his trainer, Lee Campbell, a former army trainer and Sydney Swans team member. The two have been training together for five and a half years, and in that time Lee estimates that his physical condition has risen from 2.5 to a 7 or 8. “You watch Andy pull a sled with 20 or 30 kilos of weights in it, he stands up, his posture is corrected,” said Lee. “His finer motor skills now are getting refined. He can hold things, he can cook, he can do his buttons up.” Right now, they’re training together for Andy’s next endeavour, walking the Great Wall of China.
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“People always say to me, ‘Anyone who runs as much as you do deserves to be skinny.’ Of course, what they're really saying: ‘If you do all this running, why are you still so fat?’” Early that morning [Mirna] Valerio had led a three-mile group run around the campus of Rabun Gap-Na-coochee School in the nearby town of Rabun Gap, where she serves as Spanish teacher, choir director, and head coach of the cross-country team. She's about to start her second run of the day. Every run, every race, every traverse of a mountain trail, every gym workout, Valerio begins by taking a photo. “To prove that I was out here,” she explains. Later, she will post the photos on ... her blog, Fat Girl Running, in which she both writes of the joys of the running life and thoughtfully, humorously, and sometimes angrily rebuts her doubters, who can't believe that a self-described fat person might discover - or deserve - this kind of joy. With a BMI ... above the National Institutes of Health-established line defining obesity, Valerio, a marathoner, ultramarathoner, and trail runner, has emerged as ... a living argument that it's possible to be both fit and fat. “I'm pretty much in love with my body,” she writes. “Sometimes I get disappointed or angry with it, but like any long-term, committed relationship, it usually comes right back to love and respect.” By making peace with her obesity - or, more accurately, by fighting her disease to a kind of enduring, vigorously active truce - Valerio draws kudos from a formerly skeptical medical community.
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The fact that Richie Parker can ride a bike doesn't sound impressive -- until you see him do it. Same goes for the car repairs he makes using power tools. Parker was born without arms, a disability he's overcome time and time again, ultimately leading him to his job engineering chassis and body components for Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR's most winning organization. "Based on his resume, I knew he could do the things that I needed him to do, it was more a question of how,” Rex Stump, engineering manager at Hendrick, said of Parker. Just like every other hurdle in his life, Parker found a way, placing the keyboard and mouse on the floor, then operating both with his feet to build custom high-performance automotive parts. His story has also inspired countless others, not the least of [whom] is Magic Johnson. After watching [an] ESPN segment [on Parker], the retired NBA star tweeted, "Richie Parker's story proves that you can do anything you set your mind to. We should all stop complaining and giving excuses." Or, as Parker says, "I don't know there's a lot in life ... that I'd say I can't do. Just things I haven't done yet."
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When Jacob Barnett was 2 years old, he was diagnosed with moderate to severe autism. Doctors told his parents that the boy would likely never talk or read and would probably be forever unable to independently manage basic daily activities like tying his shoe laces. But they were sorely, extraordinarily mistaken. Today, Barnett -- now 14 -- is a Master's student, on his way to earning a PhD in quantum physics. The teen, who boasts an IQ of 170, has already been tipped to one day win the Nobel Prize. Since enrolling at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) at the age of 10, Barnett has flourished -- astounding his professors, peers and family with his spectacular intelligence. The teen tutors other college students in subjects like calculus and is a published scientific researcher, with an IQ that is believed to be higher than that of Albert Einstein. In fact, according to a 2011 TIME report, Barnett, who frequently tops his college classes, has asserted that he may one day disprove Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Outside of his rigorous university commitments, Barnett, who has Asperger's Syndrome, is also an entrepreneur and aspiring author. The teen, who, with his family, runs a charity called Jacob's Place for kids on the spectrum, has used his story to raise awareness and dispel myths about autism. In April, [his mother] Kristine Barnett's memoir about her family's experience with autism, The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius, was released. A movie deal is said to be in the works.
You've heard of the Rockettes, but have you heard of the Rollettes – a dance troupe of women in wheelchairs? The Los Angeles-based group was founded by Chelsie Hill, who always wanted to be a dancer, and wasn't going to let her paralysis stop her. "In high school, I got into a car with a friend who was drinking and we ended up hitting a tree head-on," Hill [said]. She decided that despite the tragedy, she was going to continue doing what she loved. She danced with her high school team in her wheelchair, and when she graduated, she was inspired to show other girls with disabilities they could dance, too. "I found this group of girls on social media who all had spinal cord injuries and I invited them to my hometown to dance with me. It was such an amazing experience," she said. The group put on a show in Monterey, California, where Hill grew up, and the Rollettes were born. Right now, there are six dancers on the team who perform competitively together. Not only does Hill coordinate this small group of dancers, but every year she holds a dance camp for women around the world. Girls of all ages attend the camp and learn how to dance in their chairs. For Hill, it's not just about teaching others the art of dance, it's about giving them a space where they feel like they belong. "I had a girl say it was the most empowering thing that she rolled into a room and everyone was at eye-level. I want people to come into that room feeling so normal, so empowered so that they can go out in the world and conquer anything," Hill said.
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The crowds that 25-year-old Nick Vujicic draws as an evangelist would have been unimaginable only a few years ago, and impossible had he been born under other circumstances. "In some third world countries ... I would be seen as cursed, a shame to the family," said Vujicic (pronounced VOY-chich). "The possibilities of me being killed at my birth would have been quite high." But Vujicic, who was born without arms or legs, does have one of the most powerful of all human attributes: a voice. Through the ministry he calls Life Without Limbs and a motivational program titled "Attitude is Altitude," Vujicic said he has made 1,600 speaking appearances in 12 nations. "No matter who you are, no matter what you're going through, God knows it," he said. "He is with you. He is going to pull you through." Like all skilled evangelists, he can imagine the deepest vulnerabilities of his listeners, especially among teenage audiences. "I used to think that I needed my circumstance to change before I had any hope," he said. "I wanted to know that there was someone else out there in my position, to know that there is hope, that there is more than just the little box that I see in my life." He cannot avoid the reasons why people are fascinated by his physical condition, and he uses it to his advantage in his speeches, often delivered from a tabletop in front of the audience. He says it lends credibility "to know that somebody has been through something, that they've learned something that you know you need to apply in your own life."
Note: Watch an amazing four-minute video titled "No arms, no legs, no worries," on this inspiring man. Nick has overcome challenges that are almost guaranteed to make your problems seem like nothing.
An autistic teenager has become an online sensation after a video demonstrating his unique technique as a barista - which involves plenty of dancing - went viral. Sam was filmed making a cup of coffee for a customer while working alongside his boss Chris at the Starbucks restaurant, believed to be in North America. The clip shows the teenager smiling and dancing while heating the milk and later pouring it into the cup of coffee, before adding whipped cream and sprinkles. Carly Fleischmann, who lives in Toronto, Canada, posted the video to YouTube and Facebook alongside a caption introducing Sam. Carly explained that when Sam was offered a position at Starbucks he told his parents that for the first time in his life he felt like he had real meaning. She added: 'Sam was diagnosed with autism and like some people with autism Sam has a movement disorder. Sam has a hard time keeping his body still. 'Sam never thought that he would be able to work behind the bar because of his sudden movements but his manager Chris believed in him and got Sam to channel his movements into dance.' The partnership was not an overnight success however and it has taken Sam and Chris many shifts and hours to get to the level demonstrated in the video. Sam is now known as the 'dancing barista' and Carly noted that if it was not for Chris believing in the ability of his employee then he would not have had the confidence to believe in himself.
Note: Don't miss the inspiring six-minute video of Sam and Chris on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Two pedals, one leg - the bicycle and Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah weren’t exactly made for each other. He got on one anyway, and it changed his life. Changed other people’s lives, too. Now the San Diegan wants to do it all again. Yeboah, 38, was born in Ghana without a shinbone in his right leg. The deformity set him up for life as an outcast. His mother believed he could be more than that. Her dream became his dream. After she died, he decided to honor her hopes for him by cycling one-legged across Ghana. He wanted to raise awareness for the plight of the disabled while setting an example for what was possible. He rode a mountain bike almost 400 miles in 10 days, clad in a T-shirt with “The Pozo” - disabled person - printed on the front. “Pozo! Pozo!” people yelled as he rode by, but they weren’t making fun of him. They were cheering. By the time he was done, he’d gone from curiosity to national hero. Government officials, their eyes opened, eventually passed legislation giving the disabled greater rights. In 2005, he was the subject of a documentary, “Emmanuel’s Gift,” narrated by Oprah Winfrey. And then the public’s attention moved on, as it always does, to other dreams, to other dreamers. Except Yeboah isn’t finished with his. He wants to build a school in Ghana for the disabled. So he’s formed a nonprofit organization, Emmanuel’s Dream. But he also knows what got him noticed in the first place. He’s getting back on the bike. The plan is to ride from San Diego to Oregon, 1,082 miles in 21 days.
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Dan Nevins commands his yoga class with authority. For Nevins, teaching yoga is much more than a job. It actually saved his life. Eleven years ago, while serving in Iraq, an IED exploded under his Army vehicle. The blast destroyed both his legs. "I just remember having this revelation that I'm alive, I'm alive! That I better do something to keep it that way." Nevins spent 18 months at Walter Reed Medical Center. With the help of the Wounded Warrior Project, he learned to climb mountains and play golf. But two years ago, while recovering from another surgery, he was bedridden and started having flashbacks. "And those thoughts of the not-so-great experiences from combat just kept coming back. I didn't get to the point of suicide, but I finally understood in those 8 weeks at home and I knew that I needed help." A friend suggested yoga to Nevins. "I was like 'No. One, I'm a guy; Two, I'm an Army guy; Three, I don't own any spandex, and no.'" Despite his reservations, he finally relented and took the class. "I got into this Warrior One pose. I rooted down and I felt this real surge of energy from the earth up into my body like into my soul and I shot up like 'Oh my God, I get it,' like the earth was saying 'where have you been the last ten years.'" Last year, Nevins completed yoga instructor training. Now hundreds of people come to his classes. "I felt if he can do it without legs, what's my excuse," said one student. Nevins hopes to reach both veterans and non-veterans alike.
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Before my freshman year of high school started ... my friend's car hit a guardrail with me inside. The railing amputated my leg instantly. Several years ago, more of my leg had to be amputated. Not only did this make it harder to wear a prosthetic, but it became a lot more expensive. In February of 2013, my life was forever changed when I attended the Executive Assistant Organization's Behind Every Leader event. During the conference, a sweet lady by the name of Alisson Frew dared to ask me why I did not wear a prosthetic. My short and simple answer was, "I don't have sixty thousand dollars. Do you?" The next morning I was in tears as I learned that Alisson had talked with Jeff Hoffman, founder of Priceline and mentor to GiveForward.com, along with a dozen other people, in order to help me get a prosthetic. From the first step, it was apparent to me just how much this would mean. A few days after I received the leg, I wrapped my son in my arms and experienced our first of many dances. This seemingly simple moment is forever ingrained into my heart. For the first time in my life, I was not only confident but I was empowered! I yearned to help those around me. In ... 2014, I started modelling. My dream is that one day a little girl will see me on a poster at her favorite clothing store and say, "Wow, she is beautiful, and she only has one leg. I could do that too someday, even though I have a disability." My dream is simple: to inspire every man, woman, and child into knowing and believing that they are beautiful just the way they are.
Note: Watch Marina's inspiring thank-you video to Behind Every Leader.
Tim Harris was born with Down syndrome and his father, Keith, admits that acceptance didn't come easily at first. But over the years, Keith's attitude shifted. "Tim is the second of four boys, and when he was growing up, we saw the challenges that his disability presented socially,” Keith [said]. “We started to ponder when he was young about his future and made the choice that we wanted to create a life for him that was as close to typical as possible.” Thanks to his parents' faith and support, Harris has not only accomplished the typical, but he's also made the world a little bit more extraordinary. Today, Harris is the proud owner of Tim's Place, a successful -- and unique -- restaurant in Albuquerque, N.M. Other than selling regular New Mexican fare, Tim's Place has a trademark special. It's called the Tim Hug -— a "calorie-free" and "guilt-free" treat that, according to the menu description, guarantees to "improve your lease on life." "I love giving all the customers a hug because I want them to feel comfortable and connected and being around friends,” Harris told Albuquerque The Magazine. Tim's Place, which calls itself the "world's friendliest restaurant" opened its doors in 2010 and since then, Tim has given out more than 19,000 hugs. He keeps track using a Hug Counter. Only 26, Harris -- a college graduate -- is also an accomplished Special Olympian, an excellent sailor and an experienced offshore fisherman. In high school, Harris was also elected homecoming king and Student Of The Year.
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When Rick Hoyt was 15, he communicated something to his father that changed both their lives. "Dad," the mute quadriplegic wrote in his computer after his father pushed him in a wheelchair in a five-kilometer race, "I felt like I wasn't handicapped." Rick, now 37, has had cerebral palsy since birth. But he has always been treated simply as one of the family, included by his now-divorced parents in almost everything brothers Rob and Russell did. "They told us to put Rick away, in an institution, (because) he's going to be nothing but a vegetable for the rest of his life," his father remembers. "We said, 'No, we're not going to do that. We're going to bring Rick home and bring him up like any other child,'" says Dick Hoyt, 59, a retired lieutenant colonel with the Air National Guard. "And this is what we have done." For more than 20 years, Dick has either towed, pushed or carried Rick in a string of athletic challenges including every Boston Marathon since 1981 and, most recently, last month's Ironman Triathlon World Championships in Hawaii. But mental determination and physical stamina tell only part of the Hoyt story. A message of independence and acceptance typed by Rick on his computer complete the picture: "When I am running, my disability seems to disappear. It is the only place where truly I feel as an equal. Due to all the positive feedback, I do not feel handicapped at all. Rather, I feel that I am the intelligent person that I am with no limits. I have a message for the world which is this: To take time to get to know people with disabilities for the individuals they are."
John Bramblitt believes he could draw before he could walk. Art was also his way of coping with spending much of his childhood in the hospital. After experiencing his first seizure at age 2, Bramblitt was diagnosed with severe epilepsy. After each seizure, his vision would remain blurry for a while, but then it would clear up. What neither he nor his doctors realized was that his vision was decreasing each time. In his mid-20s, while attending college for the second time at the University of North Texas in 2001, he received the news that he would lose the rest of his vision. There was nothing doctors could do to stop it. He was completely blind by the time fall semester began. When he was alone, he felt like he was losing his mind. That's when he remembered the joy he used to gain from creating art. He began by trying to draw simple shapes, but would feel his pencil run off the paper. Bramblitt realized he needed to create a structure to follow. Fabric paint, which would create raised lines as it dried, became his new pencil, and he used oil paints to bring the paintings to life. He used [touch] to "see" what he wanted to paint and to distinguish between oil paints, because each color had a different viscosity and texture. Encouraged by the way it made him feel, he would paint for hours every day. Over the years, Bramblitt has connected with charities and started a series of workshops for artists with and without sight, young and old. He believes art should be something everyone can connect with. After all, art changed his life.
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John Bramblitt of Denton, Texas, lost his vision 13 years ago due to complications with epilepsy and plunged into a deep depression, feeling disconnected from the world around him. He found a new way to express his experience of the world around him in painting however. Bramblitt learned to distinguish between different coloured paints by feeling their textures with his fingers, taught himself how to paint using raised lines and harnessed haptic visualization, enabling him to "see" his subjects through touch. While many of his portraits are taken from events in his life he experienced while sighted, he has also produced life-like paintings of people he's never actually seen, including his wife and son. Art was always a big part of his life but took on a new importance following his blindness. "Art reshaped my life," he said. Whilst continuing to create new works, Bramblitt teaches art workshops focusing on adaptive techniques for young artists with disabilities, for which he has received three Presidential Service Awards. You can buy originals and prints of John's work here.
Note: Don't miss the incredibly inspiring one-minute video of this inspiring blind artist.
Arthur Boorman was a disabled veteran of the Gulf War for 15 years, and was told by his doctors that he would never be able to walk on his own, ever again. He stumbled upon an article about Diamond Dallas Page doing Yoga and decided to give it a try -- he couldn't do traditional, higher impact exercise, so he tried DDP YOGA and sent an email to Dallas telling him his story. Dallas was so moved by his story, he began emailing and speaking on the phone with Arthur throughout his journey - he encouraged Arthur to keep going and to believe that anything was possible. Even though doctors told him walking would never happen, Arthur was persistent. He fell many times, but kept going. Arthur was getting stronger rapidly, and he was losing weight at an incredible rate! Because of DDP's specialized workout, he gained tremendous balance and flexibility -- which gave him hope that maybe someday, he'd be able to walk again. His story is proof, that we cannot place limits on what we are capable of doing, because we often do not know our own potential. Neither Arthur, nor Dallas knew what he would go on to accomplish, but this video speaks for itself. In less than a year, Arthur completely transformed his life. If only he had known what he was capable of, 15 years earlier.
Last Friday, 6-year-old Landon Johnson went to the RiverTown Crossings Mall in Grandville with his family. While there, the boy and his cousins took turns chatting with Santa. After telling the man in red he wanted a Wii, a toy dinosaur and a remote control car, Landon hopped off Santa’s lap to rejoin his family. But a few moments later, he raced back to Santa’s side: he’d forgotten to tell him something important. “He wanted to tell [Santa] that he has autism,” Landon’s mom, Naomi Johnson, said in a moving Facebook post about the encounter this week. Specifically, Landon shared his worry with Santa that his autism would land him on the “naughty list.” His mom explained ... that Landon is often told he’s “naughty” by people who mistake his autism [for] bad behavior. He’s been told by other people before, "You don’t need to be so naughty," or, "Why are you naughty?" Santa took the time to listen to Landon's worries, and held the boy's hands soothingly all the while. “Santa sat him next to him and took L's hands in his and started rubbing them, calming them down. Santa asked L if it bothered him, having Autism? L said yes, sometimes. Then Santa told him it shouldn't. It shouldn't bother him to be who he is,” Johnson wrote. Landon told Santa that he sometimes “gets in trouble at school and it's hard for people to understand that he has autism,” but that he's “not a naughty boy.” “You know I love you and the reindeer love you and it’s OK. You’re a good boy,” Santa told WOOD-TV.
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Think of it sort as an updated take on "Hoop Dreams," except that its basketball-playing dreamers use wheelchairs. And they live in Afghanistan, not the Windy City. Jess Markt, originally from the Portland, Ore. area, is ... at the center of "The League of Afghanistan," a new documentary film currently in development. In 2009, Markt, whose spinal cord was injured in a car accident at the age of 19 and [who] relies on a wheelchair to get around, traveled to northwest Afghanistan to coach a wheelchair basketball team hoping to create a nationwide league. When Aaron Cooley, a Los Angeles-based producer with Joel Schumacher's production company, caught wind of Markt's experience, he saw the seeds of a great film. Today, the documentary, which aims to tell the story of Markt's efforts to bring basketball to disabled men and women [throughout Afghanistan], is in its early stages of filming. From Jess' perspective, he is the outsider American who comes into a legitimately ... hostile situation. For the local players, we're looking at how the introduction of this game can help rebuild the hope and the purpose that is in their own lives, which were shattered by their own injuries.
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