Disability Awareness: We can all overcome our challenges

Election Day and the Thanksgiving holiday encouraged the Accessibility Committee and the Academic Resource Center to reflect on the accomplishments of some of the United States’ most well-known individuals despite their challenges with “disabilities.”

In fact, we all face our own challenges, whether they be physical, intellectual, or emotional. It goes with being human. But, part of being human is that we can find ways to overcome these barriers to accomplish great things. One of the greatest achievements one can make is to attain the role of what is almost universally considered to be the leader of the free world. However, since it is a human who fills the role of President of the United States, he or she is not immune to the same disabilities that affect any other person. In fact, several of our country’s chiefs of state have overcome disability challenges. Many of us are well aware of some of these examples, but we may be less familiar with some of the more hidden disabilities that our commanders in chief have overcome and/or managed.

The below list from Inc.’s article “11 U.S. Presidents Who Overcame a Disability” documents some of these examples:

  1. George Washington – widely believed to have been dyslexic
  2. Thomas Jefferson – believed to have been dyslexic and had a stutter
  3. James Madison – had epilepsy
  4. Abraham Lincoln – had depression and other physical ailments, such as headaches; widely believed to have had Marfan’s Syndrome as well
  5. Theodore Roosevelt – was nearsighted and had severe bronchial asthmas
  6. Woodrow Wilson – was dyslexic and experienced a stroke while in office
  7. Franklin Delano Roosevelt – was partially paralyzed by polio
  8. Dwight D. Eisenhower – widely believed to have been dyslexic
  9. John F. Kennedy – was dyslexic and had chronic back pain
  10. Ronald Reagan – was nearsighted and had hearing challenges during his presidency for which he used a hearing aid
  11. William Jefferson Clinton – had a high-frequency hearing deficiency