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Stars in wheelchair

These people are well-known, successful, inspiring – and in wheelchair.

These people are well-known, successful, inspiring – and in wheelchair.

Wheelchair users are still often perceived as vulnerable and dependent, incapable of any professional and social achievements. However, we all know that’s not true. There are plenty of people in wheelchairs whose talents, efforts and achievements are remarkable.

In this blog post, we share a few of these stories.. The protagonists may not be superstars but they prove that wheelchair users can be stronger and even more successful than most able-bodied people.

Please note that the selection of the people is subjective, reflecting the author’s personal view.

Sue Austin

Sue Austin is a British multimedia, performance and installation artist, with impressive artistic achievements and competences. She started using a wheelchair at the age of 31, due to an extended illness limiting her mobility. She uses an innovative underwater wheelchair to create art and reshape the world’s view on the wheelchair experience. Her artwork, called “Creating the Spectacle!”, has been seen and admired by over 150 million people.

Sue Austin: Creating the Spectacle! – Part 1

John Hockenberry

John Hockenberry is a multi-award winning American journalist and author. He became paralyzed after a car crash in 1976 while hitchhiking on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Hockenberry’s career is outstanding. He reports from all over the world on a wide variety of topics for renowned journals like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Harper's Magazine. He has been a presenter and a moderator at many conferences world-wide including the famous TED conference, the World Science Festival in New York and in Brisbane, the Mayo Clinic’s Transform Symposium and the Aspen Comedy Festival.

Watch here his inspirational TED talk:

John Hockenberry: We are all designers

Santina Muha

Santina Muha is an American writer, actress, and comedian currently living and performing in Los Angeles. In 2009, she was awarded Ms. Wheelchair New Jersey. Muha became paraplegic at the age of five, due to a car accident. Nowadays, she gives entertaining talks on a variety of topics and is not afraid to tackle taboos or to talk about sex, dating or being a woman in a wheelchair.

In my point of view, Muha is inspiring for everyone, especially for those who are never satisfied with their physical appearances. Instead of constantly striving for perfection, Muha cherishes the beauty of imperfection. In the documentary “Defining Beauty: Ms. Wheelchair America”, one can see how she stands out from the typical image of beauty.

Here is one of Muha’s most watched videos:

Santina Muha: Wheelchair Dating Questions You’re Too Afraid To Ask

Hunter Pochop

Hunter Pochop hitting the skate park with his special wheelchair

Hunter Pochop is a 13-year-old boy from California living with spina bifida. He is always happy and excited about life. He refuses to be called disabled or handicapped because he doesn’t feel so. Pochop’s favorite things to do are hitting the skate park in his WCMX chair, surfing, playing wheelchair basketball, and hanging out with his friends. In 2016, Pochop competed in his first WCMX World Championships in Texas and won the first place in the beginners division.

Pochop is a “kindness ambassador” for Peach’s Neet Feet (PNF) to help spreading kindness in his community and among his peers. PNF is a non-profit organization aiming “to provide tangible ways to be compassionate, and inspire others to engage in acts of kindness”. What they do, for example, is creating custom-painted pairs of shoes for children living with a life-threatening disease or permanent disability. The shoes are designed with phrases and items important to the individual child. Pochop, as an ambassador, also received one pair of these shoes from PNF. His pair has his nickname “The Unstoppable Porkchop” given by PNF’s founder painted on them.

Heidi Herkes

Heidi Herkes (left) in a beauty studio

Heidi Herkes embodies a success story of people with spinal cord injury in the beauty industry. Originally from London, she used to own a bridal beauty business and traveled a lot to give the perfecting touch to many brides-to-be around the world. After an accidental fall from stairs in 2014, Herkes became paralyzed.

Her new life has brought a lot of challenges, mainly for her professional life, since she is unable to use her hands as before. “I had to rethink my approach to life and work completely”, she said in an interview, “my confidence and self-esteem were at ground zero.”

After two years, however, Herkes came back launching her new business. Now she is probably the only personal style consultant with spinal cord injury in the world. She offers her professional advice to all, with and without disability.

As mentioned, this is just a subjective list of amazing people in a wheelchair, and there are so many others out there.

Whom would you add to this list? Let us know the people that you consider important or just amazing!

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