About the "Famous People with Disabilities" web pages
"Famous disabled people" is by far the most popular section of the Red Disability website, in terms of visitors. We are very pleased that a substantial number of people realise that people with disability can succeed, and are taking an interest in people with disabilities whi have achieved a great level of success.
We also know that a number of visitors to these pages have a few questions, about the inspiration, motives and accuracy of these pages. This page is an attempt to answer these FAQs.
What is the purpose of the "Famous Disabled People" web pages?
To celebrate when people with disabilities succeed, and prove that disability does not mean we have to be treated as inferiors. Also to encourage people with disabilities to follow our dreams, and not be put off when people tell us we're "not allowed" or "not suitable" for what we aspire to do or be.
The examples of people with disabilities who have achieved success can be quoted whenever anyone questions your (or your friends') abilities, merely because you have disabilities. Such examples may also be quoted at job interviews etc.Have the people listed overcome their disabilities?
Yes and no. Often, their disability has not directly affected their abilities relevent to the field in which they have achieved success. What they have had to overcome is the prejudices of a society which treats disabled people as inferiors who can never be equals, let alone high achievers.
Is this like an "outing list"?
Actually, no. In the case of all the people listed, their disabilities have already been mentioned beforehand, either in the media, in interviews, or by the celebrities themselves. It is certainly not an attempt to embarrass anyone.
These pages differ from the "outings" as practiced by militant gay rights groups in one significant way. Gay rights activists tend to "out" hypocrites who are so desperate to keep their homosexuality hidden, they adopt a homophobic stance in public. When this leads to public figures such as politicians supporting or pursuing anti-gay legislation, it is in the interest of the gay community to expose them as hypocrites. (NB this is not the same as the "outing" of celebrities by the media - as happened in the 1990s to Jason Donovan, who has never said anything against homosexuality or gay rights. The claims that he was gay were later proved libellous in court).
As far as we are aware, nobody in the "famous disabled people" lists has shown any blatantly disabled-ist tendencies. (Involvement in charity fundraising doesn't really count, in this case!)
So what was the inspiration for this section?
The main inspiration was the "What Happened Spot" which used to be aired on PCRL Radio, a black community pirate radio station in Birmingham, which detailed the achievements of black people throughout history. This opened my eyes to the contributions to society of black people, and I thought something similar could be done with respect to disabled people.
What is the "source" link after the listing of the disability?
As I've already said, this section only lists people whose disability is already known. The "source" link is to where the disability is mentioned elsewhere on the web. Featuring this link does not imply that we agree entirely with the tone of the page (occasionally the link is to a page which is pro-charity, adopts the medical model of disability, or has a "tragic but brave" tone). It is simply to prove that we have researched our facts, rather than relying on "urban legends" for our info.
There are other lists of famous people with disabilities on the web. Do we really need another one?
Many of the "famous disabled people" lists online are dry lists of names, with little or no info about the achievements of the people listed. Others concentrate on celebrities with one type of disability, and are aimed mostly at raising the profile of a small section of disabled people. A few (notably "disease lists") seem to medical-ise disability.
The aim of Red Disability's "Famous Disabled People" section is to be inclusive of people across the disability spectrum, and to concentrate on the people and their achievements - after all, it is their achievements what made them famous in the first place, not (at least not directly) their disabilities.
Sometimes the disability has no relevance to the celebrity's career. Can it really be counted as a disability?
True, often people have disabilities which do not affect their abilities. In fact, sometimes disability can enhance a person's other abilities, because they tend to concentrate on what they can do well.
Sadly, however, any disability still carries a stigma, and with it prejudice. It is this prejudice, often more a dislike of diversity than a blatant dislike of disability, which needs to be overcome. The best way to overcome this social prejudice towards disability is by proving that it is not a handicap. (We're back to the first question on this page!)
Disability seems to be a more complex phenomenon than I thought. How can I learn more?
If you've surfed here from Red Disability's home page, this question has probably already been answered.
If not, click here to open the main Red Disability site in a new window.
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