When you tell someone they can’t do something, it often serves as a motivation to prove you’re wrong, and disabled people are no exception. Of course, that’s not the only reason they do exactly what they are supposedly not able to do. Some want to prove their abilities to themselves only, some want to set an example or help others, some do what they are good at, and some just do what they love.
Dustin Carter contracted a blood disease that cost him parts of all four limb when he was very young. In the eighth grade, he joined the school wrestling team, although no one expected him to excel. And he didn’t for a long time. But hard work and discipline paid off in his senior year. Last month, Carter represented his school at the Ohio state wrestling championships. He placed in the top 16 of his weight class.
Lacey Henderson’s right leg was amputated when she was nine years old due to a tumor in her kneecap. But at her mother’s suggestion, she tried out to become a cheerleader in high school. Not only did she make the team, but she worked her way up to captain! Now she’s 18 and cheers for the University of Denver.
Eli Bowen was born in 1844 with feet attached directly to his pelvis. In other words, he had no legs. He developed strong arms doing farm work and training to start the career of his dreams. At age 13, he became a professional acrobat! His acrobatic act showcased his strength, but he was also known for his handsome appearance. Although he became wealthy, he never retired, continuing to perform until his death in 1924.
Dave Heeley was born visually impaired, but his eyesight deteriorated further until he was classified as blind in his twenties. Now 50, Heeley will take up the Seven Magnificent Marathons challenge and run marathons on seven continents in seven days. April 7th through the 13th, Dave and his sighted running partner Malcolm Carr will run in Port Stanley, Falkland Islands, Santiago, Los Angeles, Sydney, Dubai, Tunis, and London. Heeley is in it for his favorite cause, The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.
Erik Weihenmayer lost his vision when he was 13 years old. He went on to become a middle school teacher, a wrestling coach, and a world-class athlete. In 2001, Weihenmayer became the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest. The next year, he completed the Seven Summits -the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. Weihenmayer is leading others, too. In 2004 he took a group of blind Tibetans up a Himalayan peak, an adventure that was recorded in a documentary called Blindsight.
Ludwig von Beethoven became deaf gradually, beginning in his twenties. He considered it a great tragedy and shame, and was loathe to admit it to those around him. He was profoundly deaf by his mid-forties, but kept composing using a rod to transfer sound from a piano to his jaw.
Porter Ellett of Bicknell, Utah lost his arm in an accident when he was four years old. He became a star basketball player for Wayne High School, leading the team to the state playoffs. But that’s not all, he also plays on the baseball team and runs track, too! See a video report here.
Mark Goffeney was born without arms, but always wanted to be a musician. He started out playing trombone, but realized his calling in playing guitar with his feet. He founded the band Big Toe in 1992. You can hear music and see videos of Goffeney’s performances at his MySpace page.
John Bramblitt became blind gradually, possibly due to a seizure disorder. He didn’t realize how bad his vision had become until he was past legally blind. Bramblitt never painted before he lost his sight. He admits it “seemed a way of shoving my disability right back in the face of God, or nature, or whatever.” Now a graduate of the University of North Texas, Bramblitt is set to attend Toulouse School of Graduate Studies. A video report on his art won the 2007 YouTube Award last week in the Inspirational category.
What is most impressive about these stories of uncommon people is how common they are. The majority of the stories here have been in the news very recently. Each is one more step in changing the world’s perception of the disabled.