Famous People with Blindness or Visual Impairment

Explore the life stories of famous and accomplished people who are blind or visually impaired.
 
 

Who's Who Lists

My Blind Spot
The team at this blog site maintain a collection of historical figures known to be visually impaired. My Blind Spot takes an interesting approach by dividing their lists by degrees of blindness.
 
BBC News Magazine
Columnist Finlo Rohrer challenges the way that disability is typically left out of historical documentation, from encyclopedia entries to statuary. Learn more about Enrico Dandolo in the Other Noteworthy Individuals section below.
 
Perkins School for the Blind Archives
Perkins owns many rare portraits of individuals who were blind, both famous and unknown. View the gallery of historical images at the Perkins Archives Flickr site.
 
Wikipedia
While any information on Wikipedia must be confirmed with reputable sources, this list is a good starting point for learning about people in many eras and occupations who were visually impaired.
 
Disabled World
Brief profiles of famous people with visual impairment or blindness.
 
American Printing House for the Blind (APH)
The Hall of Fame honors leaders in the work of educating students who are blind. Many were themselves visually impaired.
 
FunTrivia.com
Rate yourself on this quiz about people who did their greatest work after they became blind; in Flash or html. 
 
Blind.net
Links to short biographies of leaders in the National Federation of the Blind. All are activists for the rights of people with visual impairments to participate fully in the the workplace and community. 
 

Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan

Many visitors to the Scout database are looking for information about Helen Keller, world-famous for her personal accomplishments, humanitarian pursuits, social and political activism, and the inspiration she provides to children, family, and educators. everywhere. Here are sites with photos and biographies of the two women.
 
Perkins School for the Blind
Learn more about the school's most famous student.
 
This section of the Perkins Archives portal offers links to digitized resources, including downloadable photographs, correspondence, writings, and other materials by or about Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan.
 
American Foundation for the Blind
A short biography of Keller's life and accomplishments.
 
American Foundation for the Blind
Aimed at children, this online museum outlines Keller's life, profusely illustrated with captioned photographs.
 
Disability & Society, 2000
Liz Crow's essay explores the tension between the iconic image of Helen Keller and the reality of the passionate activist and radical; a downloadable pdf.
 
American Foundation for the Blind
An account of the great educator's life and association with Helen Keller, profusely illustrated with historic photographs that are described to make them accessible to all.
 

Laura Bridgman

Perkins School for the Blind
Laura Bridgman was the first student with deafblindness to receive a formal education, including learning to read and write. She was world-famous in her day, generations before Helen Keller. For further studies, consult the Bridgman collection finding aid at the Perkins School for the Blind Archives.
 

Other Noteworthy Individuals

Turkish painter Armagan creates oil landscape using his fingers as brushes.  His rich use of color and perspective characterize his work.
 
Aucoin is a triathlete who returned to sports to regain the confidence and independence he had as a teenage athlete.  Aucoin has now participated in 7 triathlons and a bicycle trek across Canada.
  
Yosemite's El Capitan monolith is 3000 ft high. Bate climbed it solo in 2013 through the route known as "Zodiac," over 16 pitches.
 
Richard Bernstein is a Michigan civil rights attorney who has won numerous lawsuits on behalf of individuals with disabilities. Bernstein is also an Ironman competitor, motivational speaker, and radio host.
 
Biggs was awarded the 2010 "Yes I Can" Award in recognition of his accomplishments as a stage performer.
 
This singing group was formed in 1939 by students at the Alabama Institute and gained widespread popular appeal in the 1950s through crossover gospel hits. The founding members were  founding members were Clarence Fountain, Jimmy Carter, George Scott, Velma Bozman Traylor, Johnny Fields, Olice Thomas, and the only sighted member, J. T. Hutton.
 
Italian tenor, multi-instrumentalist and classical crossover artist Bocelli is as popular among mainstream music fans as he is among followers of opera.
 
Bramblitt's contemporary style of art features layers of brilliantly colored paint, close-up images, and reflections.  Bramblitt describes his process as an "invisible method" that begins with tactile line outlines to define the spaces within each piece. Original works can be purchased from the website linked above.
 
Molly is the Youth Ambassador for The Foundation Fighting Blindness.  At 18, Molly is already an accomplished athlete, and performer, as well as a former Miss Teen Canada contestant.
 
Maria is well-known in the Tampa area as a former member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders.  Today she supports the Foundation Fighting Blindness Visionwalk fundraiser through her Marching for a Cure team.
 
Theresa Chan became well-known with the release of the 2005 film "Be With Me," directed by Eric Khoo.  In the film, Ms. Chan plays herself in a dramatization of her experience as a deaf and blind woman in her native Singapore.
 
The list of Ray Charles' awards and honors is beyond the scope of this page. This link to his official website leads you to a full biography, discography, merchandise, and other media.
 
In 2013, 2 cyclists completed a bicycle tour of the western hemisphere, which they began in 2009. Read the story of their journey and see the route through their eyes on their website, linked here.
 
Author of One of the Lucky Ones, a memoir of her upbringing in China, Dr. Ching is also noteworthy for her work to improve education and rehabilitation opportunities for people with disabilities in Hong Kong.
 
Singer Cleghorn performed before the largest crowd of his career at a "Stand for Children" rally in front of an estimated 300,000 attendees. He is a regular performer in his home state of Georgia.  Look for more videos like the one linked above on YouTube.
 
Singer/songwriter Chrissie Cochran is also host of The Attitude Test, a program of the Global Voice Internet radio broadcast.  Download her tunes here.
 
Astronomer and physicist Dr. Kent Cullers received his PhD from University of California-Berkley.  He has devoted his career to NASA's Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) and was portrayed as a character in the film based on Carl Sagan's book Contact.
 
Doge of Venice (a chief magistrate and principle leader) from 1192 - 1205.  Dandolo was notable for reforms to the Venetian currency systems and approved financing the Fourth Crusade.
 
The late Shelley Davis was an attorney and activist who worked on behalf of migrant farmworkers' rights, particularly in the area of workplace hazards and health concerns.
 
Mark is the founder of Courage Canada, a joint effort with Accessible Media and CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) that sponsors hockey programs for youth with visual impairments.
 
Filmmaker and screenwriter de Toth was at the peak of his career in the 1940s and '50s, with titles such as House of Wax, and Springfield Rifle. In 1995 de Toth was awarded a Career Achievement Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
 
Ten BAFTA awards and 6 Academy Award nominations (including 1 win for 1998's Shakespeare in Love) are only a few of the accomplishments in Dame Dench's fifty year acting career. Dench switches easily from comedy to drama, from Shakespeare to Fleming, and from TV to film.
 
Actor Johnny Depp is most famous for his collaborations with filmmaker Tim Burton, and for his recurring role in Disney's Pirate of the Caribbean film series. Depp is a three-time Academy Award nominee and a 2008 Golden Globe recipient. We link you to his largest fansite.
 
Overbrook School alumnus Dunn served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1933-1941, after having served the Pennsylvania state legislature for 6 years.
 
In the 18th Century, Swiss mathematician Euler made significant contributions to the field of calculus, and authored Concerning the Inequalities in the Motions of the Planets, among other works in mechanics, optics, acoustics and physical astronomy.
 
Steven Faulker felt unable to fulfill his dream of a dental practice when he contracted retinitis pigmentosa in his 30s, but he was able to make a career as a rehabilitation counselor, specializing in career counseling for high school students with disabilities.
 
Nine-time Grammy winner Feliciano has been a figure in popular music for over 30 years.  His original recordings (in English, Spanish or a mixture of both) as well as his reinterpretations of the great standards, have earned him Billboard Magazine's Lifetime Achievement Award.
 
Fitton gained national attention as a Division I swimmer. What this Colgate student would really like to talk about is her Forensic Anthropology work. Contact her through this page.
 
Morris Frank was the founder of Seeing Eye, the first guide dog school in the United States, and one of its first students.
 
Harvard Law Student Haben Girma balances her studies with her works as a civil rights advocate with Mobility International and DeafBlind Young Adults in Action.
 
As a senior in the School of Art, Gossiaux won an Award of Excellence from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. Click her name to read more of her story, or click this link to hear her RadioLab interview.
 
In 2013, Gunn achieved a motorcycle distance of over 167 mph at Elvington Airfield in North Yorkshire, England.
 
Musical artist Gurrumul writes and performs songs in his native aboriginal language of the Gumatj clan. His unique style has been called "simple," "trancelike," "transcendental," and "timeless" by the world press. Many of his songs express the experience of being blind.
 
Christine Ha took America by storm winning the 2012 installment of Fox's "Master Chef" culinary competition program.  The link above connects to Ha's "The Blind Cook" blog.  Christine's other websites can be found at http://www.christineha.com/
 
Read in Hairston's own words her journey of resigning from a teaching career because of advancing vision loss to becoming a county supervisor and administrator of the Alcohol, Drug, and Outpatient Program for Camden County, New Jersey
 
Hanson set himself a goal of raising $1M from his artwork before he turned twenty, and reached that goal in 2013, just a month before his self-imposed deadline. Most of the funds raised have supported the Make-a-Wish Foundation. You can see a video of Hanson's story, and examples of his colorful style through the link above.
 
Activist and philanthropist McClain Hermes was in thrid grade when she founded Shoes for the Souls, a program that collects shoes for individuals in need.
 
The author of Thunder Dog, Hingson is known worldwide as the man who escaped the North Tower on September 11, 2001, with the assistance of his guide dog Roselle. Hingson is available for speaking engagements on this experience as well as other topics.
 
Hughes first gained public notice as the member of his college's marching band who used a wheelchair. Since graduating from the University of Louisville, Hughes has authored his personal story, I Am Potential, and recorded 2 music CDs.
 
Writer and contemporary philosopher Huxley was temporarily blinded as a teenager, and asserted in later life that his sight had been regained through the Bates Method. Click here for a comprehensive portal to Huxley works, biography, and criticism.
 
Mary Ingalls was the older sister of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the "Little House" series of books based on their family's experience as prairie settlers in the 1870s. The definitive website Laura's Prairie House contains material on the historical, and fictionalized Mary.
 
In 2012, American Printing House launched an online exhibit spotlighting Mary Ingalls' life and experiences.
 
Author Bill Irwin tells his story of completing the Appalachian Trail with his guide dog Orient in Blind Courage, released in 1992.
 
The Honorable Marlene Jennings, MP is the official title of Canada's Liberal representative from NDG-Lachine.  Ms. Jennings' political areas of concern are employment equity and communications for women, aboriginal peoples, and ethnic and racial minorities.
 
Dr. Jernigan led the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) for 40 years.  He is the longest-serving leader in that organization's history.
 
Johnson has served as a student representative with the UK Human Rights Commission in the area of comparative disability law for the UK's overseas territories.
 
Medaling Swimmer Dan Kelly is a retired Paralympian. This link takes you to a write-up of Kelly's stats.
 
Lee reads the daily news for South Korean state television from his refreshable braille device and brailled pages.
 
In 2012, Anil Lewis was appointed to President Barak Obama's  Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, which gives jobs to people who are blind (or have other significant disabilities) in the manufacture and delivery of products and services to the Federal Government.
 
Winemaking requires acute senses of taste and smell, which winemaker Lin employs in his own viticulture as well as his consultations to winemakers abroad.
 
Former Royal Naval Officer Lock was part of the Polar Vision expedition team that reached the South Pole on foot in 2012.
 
LuFriu chose to compete on the pageant circuit to raise awareness of retinitis pigmentosa, and the Foundation Fighting Blindness. After being crowned Mrs. America 2011, she went on to compete in the Mrs. World 2012 pageant, a title she has also won.
 
Mr. Lundblad is a programmer with Internet giant Google.
 
Mannella was the youngest member of the US Paralympic Team at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Skiing since the age of 4, she competes today in slalom and giant slalom events.
 
Marsaw was granted a Rhodes Scholarship in 1995, in recognition of his outstanding academic achievements at Ontario's Laurentian University. Today, Marsaw is legal counsel to Canada's Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
 
Dr. Maurer has led the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) since 1986, and has been a leading member since his first role in the Student Division in 1971.    Dr. Maurer has been instrumental in creating the Jernigan Institute, for developing innovative education, technologies, products, and services that support independence for the world's blind.
 
Born in Northern Ireland, McAllister became a golfer in middle-age, and immediately began gaining rank within the Disabled Gold Association. McAllister focuses now on qualifying for the 2014 world championships. Follow McAllister's progress through his website, linked here.
 
Photographer Tara Miller specializes in commercial and family settings, but has a fondness for food styling and fine arts as well.  View Miller's galleries at the link above.
 
17th Century English poet, and author of Paradise Lost, is also the creator of "On His Blindness," a poem written late in his life.
 
The President of the Disabled Businesspersons Association is also a Vietnam era veteran who combines those experiences to bring veterans and business people together in activities like the National Summer Sports Clinic and the National Disabled Veterans Business Center.
 
Link here to a website full of Monet's biography, work, writings, and historical sites.  This site contains extensive graphics as well as text.
 
Mouton competes in international judo competition and makes the Diamondback Judo Club her home base.
 
Special Education Teacher Nolan is also a former Paralympian who has written the story of her personal story, Beyond Vision - available through the publisher.
 
An experienced auto racer who is newly-blind, Parker has independently races a motorcycle on the Bonneville Salt Flats at speeds of over 55 mph.
 
Former governor of New York David Paterson (D), began his career as a state senator, and became governor as Eliot Spitzer's successor. Paterson served as governor from 2008-2010
 
Major League pitcher Peavy has 14 career wins at this writing, and currently wears the Red Sox uniform.
 
Named one of 1971's "Outstanding Young Men in America," for his entrepreneurial spirit within the Virginia Commission for the Visually Handicapped, Penland went on to become high school principal and administrator, ending his career as president of Illinois' Hadley School for the Blind.
 
U.S. National B-2 Blind Golf Champion, and founder of C.U.R.E. (Cycling Under Reduced Eyesight), an annual fundraising bike ride for research into Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON).
 
Considered by the field of history to be the first scientific historian in the United States. His field was Hispanic studies of the Middle Ages, including a definitive history of King Philip II.  This link presents a full list of his written works.
 
Brazialian surfer best known for taking on Hawaii's infamous Pipeline surf.  Funds are being raised for a film about Rabelo's experiences.  Derek Rabelo also has a Facebook page, in Portuguese.
 
Rakes is a member of the 2013 Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) competition on ABC-TV.  She has been studying dance since age 8 and hopes to continue her formal education at the Boston Conservatory when she has graduated high school.
 
Raman is a computer scientist working at Google Research who specializes in accessibility research. He's developed a number of accessibility tools for computers, including the Emacspeak audio desktop.
 
Bob Cowley Riley was a war veteran and educator before his political career began in the 1970s.  he is famous for having served 11 days as acting governor for the state of Arkansas in 1975.
 
Damon Rose is known to BBC audiences as the editor of Ouch! and a presenter on Blindkiss.  This link takes you to Rose's personal blog "Do Your Worst."
 
Mezzo-soprano Rubin is co-founder and co-artistic director of Musique a la Mode Chamber Music Ensemble in New York, as well as co-founder of Ohana Arts festival in Honolulu.
 
American track and field athlete, road runner and marathon runner who is a three-time national champion in the women's 5000 metres.
 
Sandoval is a right-handed relief pitcher.  At the time of this posting, Sandoval is being considered by the Tampa Rays for their bullpen.
 
Artist Carol B. Saylor is an award-winning watercolorist and clay sculptor who creates art from her visual memory, emphasizing human forms and figures that encourage tactile exploration.  See examples of Saylor's art in this YouTube interview.
 
Early in his work in the field of assistive technology, Dr. Scadden worked with the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research to establish their Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center and later created the Research in Disability and Education program for the National SCience Foundation.   Dr. Scadden is the author of Surpassing Expectations: Life Without Sight.
 
(aka "Deedles") Jazz song stylist Schuur first performed at the Monterey Festival in the 1970s. In the 1980s she won 2 Grammy awards, but her most notable accomplishment may be 33 consecutive weeks at #1 on the Billboard charts.
 
Rachael has been a competitive sled dog musher since 1997, and in 2006 completed her first Iditarod.
 
In 2013, Shearon became the mayor of Bradenton Beach, Fla, a Gulf Coast community near Sarasota.
 
Sheldon has many accomplishments to his name, including auto mechanic, college student, county commissioner, and a stint in the CIA. Today, Sheldon creates sculptures in bronze on western themes inspired by his life in Montana.
 
Capt. Smiley is the author of Hope Unseen, a memoir of his recover from wounds in Iraq.  Today, Captain Smiley serves as Executive Officer of the ROTC program at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA.
 
Paralympic track athlete Jason Smyth of Ireland competes in the T13 classification for visually impaired runners.  Smith set 2 games records in the 100m at the 2012 London games.
 
Navy Lt. Brad Synder won Paralympic Gold in the 2012 London Paralympic Games in the 100-meter and 400-meter freestyle race. Click here to listen to NPR coverage of Brad Snyder's story.
 
Perkins School graduate Anton Sviridenko performs under the stagename "Stanton," and is currently a student at Boston's Berklee College of Music. An award-winning pianist since the age of 5, Stanton intends to perform professionally at the conclusion of his studies.
 
Journalist and author Susie Steiner wrote "Top Five Regrets of the Dying," which caused a viral whirlwind across social media. her debut novel Homecoming is a family story set in the Yorkshire region of England.
 
Stone is the author of Eye Envy: Perspectives Into Vision Loss, featuring stories of other accomplished individuals. He is also an triathlete and mountain biker when he is not educating others about hereditary eye conditions.
 
Dr. Sukhai is a Team Leader at the Advanced Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory in the Cancer Genomics Program in Toronto, Ontario, who began his education in the field of genetics research.
 
Actor, author, commentator, musician... Apollo Award-winner Tom Sullivan is a man of many talents, and a role model to many.  Get to know Tom Sullivan through his Sullivan Live website.
 
Climber Red Szell climbed the Old Man of Hoy rock formation to raise money and awareness for retinitis pigmentosa. The 450 ft rock column is known as a sea stack and is a familiar landmark of Scotland's Orkney Islands.
 
"Dr. Bill" as he is often known, developed the first pediatric low vision clinic at the Center for the Partially Sighted. The Dr. Bill Takeshita Foundation provides information and assistance to help children who are visually impaired. Hear Dr. Takeshita tell his story at the EG4 Conference (2010).  26 mins.
 
Arthur "Art" Tatum Jr. was a Columbus School for the Blind graduate and jazz pianist,  who gained fame in the 1940s as a Decca Records artist.
 
Sabriye Tenberken Paul Kronenberg began serving children who had no access to braille instruction in the Tibet Autonomous Region in 1998. Today, their organization Braille Without Borders encompasses trade training and social projects that both cross borders and remove boundaries for people who are blind
 
Thomas completed the Appalachian Trail route in 2009, and has summitted Mt. Katahdin in Maine. His current quests are for both both the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide Trails.
 
Playwright and novelist Townsend is the creator of Adrian Mole, star of the Adrian Mole series of comic novels that made Townsend one of the top-selling authors of the 1980s.
 
Tsaran manages the Accessibility team at Paypal,and was formerly employed at Yahoo in a similar role.
 
A brief PDF biography and fact sheet of the Japanese-born piano prodigy and Van Cliburn International Piano Competition winner.
 
Biologist Vermeij grew up in the Netherlands, and studied at Princeton University and Yale University in the United States.  This link leads you to Dr. Vermeij's author-page on Amazon.com
 
When gamer Verner commented online that he would love to beat "The Legend of Zelda" video game, fellow gamers took up the challenge to teach him the moves step-by-step.  With those keystrokes, he did finally get to the game's end.  We link you to his YouTube channel where he posts clips of his game-playing.
 
Wagner is a South African runner who completed The Last Marathon, a race to cover all 7 continents, in 2013. Follow Wagner's trek and see clips of other competitions at the website linked above.
 
Guitarist Doc Watson passed away in 2012.  This website pays tribute to his talent and contains links to CDs and DVDs for purchase
 
Watson skippered a crew in the Sydney (Australia) Hobart Yacht Race. Listen to his interview on Talking Vision through this link.
 
Erik Weihenmayer has been an elite outdoor athlete since his teen years, and captured the world's attention when he summited Mt. Everest in 2001.  Weihenmayer has completed the quest of Seven Summits, the successful scaling of the highest peaks on all seven continents.
 
Wiggins was a teenage composer in the 19th Century, completing the piano piece "Battle of Manassas" at the age of 12. Thomas Wiggins, also called "Blind Tom" Bethune, was born into slavery, and performed on the vaudeville circuit. Here Wiggins' famous composition at the link above.
 
Musician, composer, humanitarian Stevie Wonder entered the world stage at the age of 13 as part of the Motor Town Revue.  In addition to his music career, he has been a vocal activist for civil rights, gun control, and the fights against AIDS and world hunger.
 
Founder of Worley Enterprises, leaders in food service, mess attendant, hospitality, vending, custodial and grounds maintenance support. Based in Colorado Springs.
 
Entrepreneur and real estate Steve Wynn is known for many accomplishments; his interest in interior design and architecture may be less well-known. We link you here to an Architectural Digest story about subtle design elements in Wynn's Las Vegas residence to facilitate navigation within his home.
 
Competing as Trischa Zorn, this swimmer is the most successful athlete in the history of the Paralympic games, with 55 medals since the 1980 games
 

Ask Scout

I would like to get GED materials for a student who is blind.
Do you have a printable Daily living skills checklist you could email me. Tess