Role Models like me – Chelsea’s Top 10 Disabled People

People are always telling Chelsea that she inspires them – and they are right she is pretty amazing. She’s 13,  a lovely girl, a soon to be freshman in high school, a good great student who can now with her first exhibition less than a month away call herself with pride an abstract artist (find out more here).   And then of course there is the fact that she is a wheelchair bound, C1/c2 quadriplegic, ventilated via tracheostomy since  she was 9.  A girl who can do little or nothing without the help of others and yet still manages to do so much every day.  Inspiring sure – amazing really.

So  when I asked Chelsea which people of disability were her role models, she instantly rattled off the top 3 – easy Hawking, Reeve and Hamilton.   We were able to agree and get to 5 once I was able to convince  her that President Bartlett from The West Wing wasn’t actually a real person or ever really a President (sadly) and  that Martin Sheen did not in fact live with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis so therefore  it was probably best not to put him on this list. (we did make the decision that only one person on the list could be fictional and therefore did  a trade-off of Bartlett  for Artie from Glee- sorry Martin)

So Bartlett was replaced with FDR and then we had to work really hard to get to 10.  Her  list is below and I am not sure we have got it right yet, especially given that I had to prompt her and tell her a lot about some of the people on the bottom half of the list.  Role models are so important in life especially if you want to be successful or happy yourself. Given her lack of movement Chelsea often struggles to equate the achievement of paralympians with her own life and yet she relates totally to the herculean achievements of fellow quad Stephen Hawking in a subject which totally baffles her.

Two very different men, Christopher Reeve and Jean Dominique Bauby,  and the  amazingly courageous  young surfer amputee Bethany Hamilton  have had the greatest impact on her so far for their courage and resolve in the face of a devastating change in their lives.  Both Reeve and Bauby struggled to come to terms with their quadriplegia and their achievements and success were hard won. But it is Bethany Hamilton who resonates the most with her despite having a totally different challenge and prognosis. Bethany was thirteen when a great white tore off her arm while she was surfing in Hawaii. Bethany  almost died but her strength of character and faith carried her through the self doubt, depression, and angst that reguarly engulfs Chelsea and every normal teenager too. (If you are not familiar with her story check out the Soul Surfer movie trailer on You Tube Here)

There is definitely the room and need for an inspiring teenager who isn’t a former jock or world-class physicist who can inspire and advocate for the physically disabled and I hope and believe that Chelsea can develop into that person.  Love to hear  what you think about her list and about your own role models in the comments –  especially related to special needs or disability. 

Role Models Like Me

  1. Stephen Hawking – the physicist,  ALS /MND quadriplegic
  2. Christopher Reeve- actor, director, advocate  Spinal Cord Injuries
  3. Bethany Hamilton – Soul Surfer who lost an arm to a shark when she was 13
  4. Jean Dominique Bauby – former Elle Editor France, writer (The Diving Bell & the Butterfly) Stoke quadriplegic Locked in Syndrome
  5. Aimee Mullins – athlete, amputee
  6. Nick Vujicic – advocate motivational speaker, No arms or legs due to genetic condition
  7. President FDR – polio
  8. Michael J Fox – Parkinson’s Disease – actor,writer advocate
  9. Artie – Glee (the character not the actor)- fictional character
  10. Terry Fox – Cancer /amputee – athlete

My  dream is that when someone writes a list like this in 5 years time that Chelsea’s name will be on it.  It will say Chelsea Fairclough – 18, award-winning Artist, advocate, university student – quadriplegic. 

You can find out more about Chelsea’s art work on Facebook or on her website www.paintability.org

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About Sandra F

Sandra F balances her life as a management consultant, speaker and coach with her other roles as a mother to 3 amazing and extraordinary children.
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