3 Ways Stephen Hawking Revealed Possibilities for People with Disabilities

In a May 2011 interview with the New York Times, journalist Claudia Dreifus asked Stephen Hawking, “Given all you’ve experienced, what words would you offer someone who has been diagnosed with a serious illness, perhaps A.L.S.?”

Hawking, who prepared his answers ahead of the in-person interview, answered: “My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit, as well as physically.”

Hawking’s progressive and positive attitude toward disability here exemplifies everything Easterseals works toward every day: A world in which people with disabilities can achieve their goals without barriers; the notion that disability isn’t something to fear or regret, rather it’s a natural part of life.

Let’s dig a little deeper into his wise words:

  1. Concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well: Certain things may be harder to accomplish with a disability, but that doesn’t mean that everything will be. Everyone is uniquely capable of contributing talent, perspective, and skill to make an impact. Hawking was a wonderful example of this. We help people of all abilities make their unique impact at Easterseals, with the right supports and resources. We are confident that one of the next world-changers will be a part of the Easterseals family.
  2.  Don’t regret the things (your disability) interferes with: Hawking was diagnosed with A.L.S. in 1963 at the age of 21. Following his diagnosis he resisted using a wheelchair. Becoming a person with a disability later in life (as opposed to being born with a disability) was hard on him. However, he eventually let go of regret and focused on what he was good at and what he was put on this earth to do. He embraced assistive technology to continue his groundbreaking work, and had a hand in developing and advancing the programs he used. Later he became a vocal disability advocate, taking part in the Charter for the Third Millennium on Disability, which stated: “In the 21st century, we must insist on the same human and civil rights for people with disabilities as for everyone else.”
  3. Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically: The experience of being human includes disability. We all have the capacity to reach for our wildest dreams, live the fullest lives, and make the greatest change in the world – not in spite of perceived limitations, sometimes because of them. It is what makes us unique, genuine and complete. Hawking calls us all to not be a barrier to ourselves while navigating difficulties in life. Do not stifle the dreams you were born to realize.

For Hawking, the limits of what was possible were vast. He made us consider not just the wonder of the stars, but the wonder of our existence. We remember him as one of the great minds of our time, but I hope we also remember him as an important figure in the timeline of disability history.

I’ll leave you with another wonderful quote from this same interview: “Obviously, because of my disability, I need assistance. But I have always tried to overcome the limitations of my condition and lead as full a life as possible. I have traveled the world, from the Antarctic to zero gravity. Perhaps one day I will go into space.”

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  1. Marcia Stewart Says:

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