There was a time when it was thought that persons with disabilities did not have much hope to lead productive lives. Advances in medicine, education, and public awareness of the nature of disabilities have changed that mindset. A key element in the changing of the public’s perception of what disabled persons are capable of has been the openness of celebrities and other famous people about their own disabilities. Some obvious examples are Stevie Wonder, Christopher Reeve, and President Franklin Roosevelt, who spent most of his precedent-setting fourth term in the White House conducting the affairs of our country from a wheel chair.
Disabilities are not always so obvious to the eye as blindness, paralysis, or the affects of polio. They include deafness- which afflicted Beethoven from childhood, mood disorders, neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis- which afflict Michael J. Fox and Montell Williams respectively, and learning disabilities such as dyslexia- which affects Henry Winkler and afflicted many of our former presidents.
Stephen Hawking, one of the great minds of our time, suffers from Lou Gerhig’s disease and has even lost the ability to speak. That hasn’t stopped him from becoming a prize-winning physicist. The openness and willingness of celebrities to speak about their disabilities has led to the dawning of a new day for ordinary citizens with disabilities. The issue is no longer what they cannot do, but rather “How far can they go?” The answer to that is “Anywhere they want to, even all the way to the White House.”