Politicians with disabilities
Posted August 19, 2016on:
In the past, I have written articles about celebrities with ADHD and other disabilities. Since this year, 2016, is an election year in the United States, I decided to write another one about politicians with disabilities.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who served as President of the United States of America from 1933 to 1945, had polio, which made him unable to walk. He used a wheelchair to get around. Roosevelt’s accomplishments include winning the second World War and ending the Great Depression. He was not comfortable being known as a person with a disability, and always asked to be photographed from the waist up, which was possible because most American homes did not have televisions yet.
President John F. Kennedy had ADHD and took Ritalin. He also had a number of other physical health conditions. He was not open about his diagnosis, perhaps due to the stigma that was even greater in the 1960’s than today. As President, he established the Peace Corps, prevented a nuclear war, and made significant progress in protecting civil rights of minorities and people with disabilities. He also holds the distinction of being America’s first Catholic President.
Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) has a number of physical disabilities as a result of an injury when she served in Iraq. This injury caused Duckworth to lose both of her legs and damaged her right arm. She is the first woman with a disability to be elected to Congress. She currently serves on the Armed Services Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. She has sponsored over thirty bills, including Get the Lead Out of Schools Act and Counterterrorism Act of 2016.
President Woodrow Wilson had dyslexia, a learning disability which made it difficult for him to learn to read as a child. At the encouragement of his father, he took up debate and public speaking to compensate for his disability. This led to his interest in politics. So, the next time you are tempted to think that nothing good can come from having a disability, remember that Wilson would never have become President if he didn’t have dyslexia! His accomplishments include signing the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote and establishing the Federal Reserve Act.
These are just a few of the many American politicians with disabilities. Still, the government is one area that is greatly underrepresented by people with disabilities. This is unfortunate, as we could benefit from having more elected officials who know first hand what it is like to live with a disability, and to bring their first-hand knowledge to creating laws that effect the disability community.
If you are a person with a disability who is thinking about running for office someday, I hope that the stories of the politicians listed here will inspire you with the knowledge that you, too, can make a difference!