Disability: did you know?

People with disabilities can achieve amazing things, from competing in the Olympics alongside able-bodied athletes to writing whole books just by blinking.

Take a look at the facts below to learn just how much people with disabilities can do.

Then check out our collection of videos to see for yourself what is possible!

  • Rick Hansen went around the world in his wheelchair to show everyone the possibilities of people with disabilities. It took him two years, two months and two days. Find out more about Rick and his Man In Motion World Tour.
  • The football huddle was invented by a team from Gallaudet University, which has many deaf students, as a way of hiding sign language instructions from opposing teams.
  • Long before the Paralympics, American gymnast George Eyser, who had a wooden leg, won six medals at the 1904 Summer Olympics.
  • Baseball hand signals used by umpires to signify balls, strikes, out and safe originate from outfielder William Hoy’s request to umpires that they use sign language because he was deaf and could not hear the umpires’ verbal calls.
  • Marla Runyan is an American track and field athlete, road runner and marathon runner who is legally blind but competes in able-bodied events. She is a three-time national champion in the women's 5000 metres and won the 1,500 meter race at the 1999 Pan American Games. She was the first legally blind athlete to compete in the Olympics.
  • The famous French painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir developed arthritis late in life and required a wheelchair to get around. In order to continue painting, Renoir employed assistants who would dip brushes in paint for him and strap the brushes to his hands. Renoir’s later paintings are celebrated for their looser brushwork – which was probably a result of his arthritis and this technique of painting!
  • 90% of people with visual impairments can see the sun, which makes them able to see 93 million miles away.
  • Sudha Chandran was born in South India. Her right leg was amputated as a result of a road accident. She was given an artificial leg and became one of the most accomplished and acclaimed dancers in India. She performs all over the world and has received many awards. She appears often on Hindi television and in films.
  • Christy Brown was a famous Irish writer who had cerebral palsy and was able to write or type only with the toes of one foot. He wrote several books that became bestsellers around the world. His autobiography “My Left Foot” was made into a very successful film.
  • Jean-Dominique Bauby had a rare disorder called locked-in syndrome – his mind was perfectly normal but his body was completely paralyzed and he could only move his left eyelid. Despite this, he wrote a book called The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by blinking when the correct letter was reached by a person slowly reading the alphabet over and over again.
  • American Sign Language, which is the most widely spoken sign language in Canada, came from France. A Canadian who only speaks ASL will find it very hard to communicate with someone from England who only knows British Sign Language, but will have a good chance of communicating with someone using French Sign language – even if they don’t speak French!