NOT EVERYONE WHO USES A WHEELCHAIR GETS
. . . but Christopher Reeve isn't the only wheeler widely recognized
portrait painter Chuck Close, recognized with a recent
exhibit at Washington's Hirschhorn Museum, painted this giant
self-portrait, above, from his wheelchair in 1997, after
re-establishing his career following a convulsion which initially left
him paralyzed from the neck down.
Art Berg, above, author of Some Miracles Take
Time and Finding Peace in Troubled Waters,
was a popular motivational speaker for dozens of major corporations. He died unexpectedly in February 2002 at his home in Highland, Utah. This web site continues to show his joyful image as part of our introduction, in tribute to his wonderful spirit of optimism.
known as 'Perry Mason'
of TV viewers, also starred for seven
seasons as paralyzed chief of detectives 'Ironside' -- one of the
few title roles ever for a wheelchair user. He was just pretending then, but ironically poor health
and burgeoning weight later made his walking difficult --
Like Ironside, most film portrayals of wheelchair users have
been cast with walking actors:
Williams as cartoonist
John Callahan in Don't
Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot
Peter Sellers' parody of a crazed scientist in Dr.
Jon Voight as the disabled veteran in Coming Home
Jimmy Stewart as the convalescing onlooker in Alfred
Hitchcock's Rear Window
above, as Ron
Kovic in Born on the Fourth of July.
Lionel Barrymore as the heartless Mr. Potter in Frank
Capra's It's a Wonderful Life.
Daniel Day-Lewis as Christy Brown in My Left Foot.
Sheridan has several
interesting insights on this phenomenon on his web page, YouKnow.com.
U.S. Senator Max Cleland of Georgia,
a triple amputee Vietnam veteran and former director of the Veterans
Administration, had been a unique
rolling member of Congress-- until the last election, when Cleland
lost, but quadriplegic
below, was elected to
represent a congressional district in Rhode Island. Now, at
long last, there have been wheelchair ramps in both houses of
A 1967 diving accident left
Joni Eraekson a quadriplegic, starting an amazing pilgrimage
which would lead to 26 books and
founding Joni and
Friends, a disability ministry, a radio program and magazine column.
In 1998, she received the first honorary doctorate in the history of Columbia University.
Mitch Longley, actor and
native American causes, has appeared in several daytime dramas, including three years as wheelchair-using Matt Harmon, M.D., in the ABC
daytime series, Port Charles, and recently as a wheelchair
athlete on the CBS hit, Joan of Arcadia, and as an assertive social worker-attorney in the CBS drama Judging Amy.
above, is a highly visible chair user. In his recent book he
discusses some of the wrong notions
others have about life in a wheelchair. He currently takes on various assignments for MSNBC,
drawing on his years as NPR, ABC, and NBC reporter and commentator.
The late White House counsel
Charles Ruff became an instant celebrity through the Clinton
carried live on television
worldwide. He was paralyzed by a rare disease contracted while he was
teaching law in Liberia.
Mexican painter Frida
was crippled by polio and later in a bus accident that
injured her spine. While recuperating, she began to paint images seen through her pain. She was married to famed
muralist Diego Rivera, and is renowned as the melancholy painter
of 200 works.
Until recent years very few wheelchair users found
their way into the public spotlight:
appeared on stage and in films in a wheelchair in the
final years of her distinguished acting career.
George Wallace served
two terms as governor of Alabama while using a
wheelchair, the result of an assassination attempt in
Maryland during the 1972 presidential campaign.
major league baseball career ended, but a new opportunity
in public speaking and advocacy opened when an injury put
him on wheels.
Franklin D. Roosevelt's
use of a wheelchair remains a controversial issue.
In an elaborate system of staging, his chair was almost
never revealed to the public, although it was
widely known that he had fallen victim to polio in young
adulthood. The photo above is one of only two prints of a wheeled FDR.
scientist Stephen Hawking's
conquest of an uncooperative body with an
indomitable spirit and a talking computer have made him a legendary
figure worldwide, a
poster boy for the 'can-do' attitude.
Joe Hartzler of Springfield,
Illinois, a wheelchair-user since 1989
because of multiple sclerosis, rode into the courtroom to prosecute the case of the Oklahoma City
....and what shall we say about Hustler publisher Larry
Not much, except that
he, too, is in a wheelchair.