10 Women Who Fight for Disability Rights

In the month of July in the U.S., Americans raise awareness about disabilities and celebrate Disability Pride Month. These celebrations honor the July 1990 passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability.

Nearly 30 years later since the act was passed, people with disabilities still face a number of barriers and lack equitable treatment, varying from physical hurdles to economic challenges. There are various misconceptions and biases about people with disabilities that hinder their full potential, especially for women.

In honor of Disability Pride Month, we’re highlighting ten courageous women who have used their platform to fight for disability rights particularly in the workplace and beyond, and prove their unwavering commitment towards their dreams despite their disability.

  1. Alice Wong: Alice is a disabled activist, writer, media maker, and consultant. She is the founder and director of the Disability Visibility Project, an online community dedicated to creating, sharing, and amplifying disability media and culture created in 2014. Her activism and work have been featured in the CNN original series United Shades of America, Huffington Post, CNET, Buzzfeed, and many additional publications and news networks. She is recognized for her life-long service to the community and activism at the local and national levels in San Francisco. 
  2. Emily Voorde: Emily is an advisor for Access-ABLE and the Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement at the White House. 
  3. Katie Piper: Katie is a former model and established the Katie Piper Charitable Foundation which supports those with severe burns and disfigurement injuries. She is currently a successful author, television presenter, magazine columnist, and philanthropist. 
  4. Cerrie Burnell: Cerrie is an all-around entertainer as an accomplished actress, singer, playwright, children’s author and TV presenter. She is working on The One Show, The Wright Stuff, and CBeebies. She regularly speaks out in favor of diversity and the inclusion of disabled people in the media and presents at swimming events for the Paralympics. 
  5. Francesca Martinez: Francesca is an acclaimed stand-up comedian and actress. In 2000, she became the first female to win the prestigious Daily Telegraph Open Mic Award at the Edinburgh Festival and was named one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy. She is a campaigner and activist as she’s organized many charity shows and is a patron of several charities. 
  6. Jess Thom: Jess is a comedian and public speaker. She was diagnosed with the neurological condition Tourette Syndrome in her early twenties yet that doesn’t stop her as she is widely recognized for her memorable appearance on Rusell Howards’s Good News. In 2010 she co-founded Touretteshero, a blog that documents what it’s like living with Tourettes. She is an outspoken advocate and campaigner for disabled people’s rights and her work draws attention to social and environmental barriers that prevent inclusion. 
  7. Libby Clegg: Libby is a Scottish Paralympic champion sprinter, having won gold and broken records. She is registered blind and is an ambassador for the Royal Blind Charity. She is a course tutor and ambassador for Ability Training, offering accredited disability-specific awareness courses for sports coaches and fitness professionals. 
  8. Genevieve Barr: Genevieve is an actress and freelance disability consultant and public speaker. She works with charities Hear the World, Action on Hearing Loss, and AFASIC – a charity for children with speech, language, and communication difficulties. She also runs workshops for disabled actors. 
  9. Liz Carr: Liz is a British actress, comedian, broadcaster, and international disability rights activist. Liz has been a disability rights campaigner in the UK and has spoken at many rallies. 
  10. Tammy Duckworth: Tammy is a U.S. Representative from Illinois’ 8th Congressional District – and the first Asian-American Congresswoman from that state, the first disabled woman ever elected to the House of Representatives, and the first member of Congress to be born in Thailand. She has an outstanding record in LGBT and reproductive rights and President Obama appointed her Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2009.

These amazing women have inspired millions in diverse fields who have a disability to continue being authentically them and fight for what they deserve. Their encouragement and bravery to strive for equality and justice are unstoppable. We commend them and cannot wait to see what their future holds.

Check out these resources and organizations that advocate for disabled rights:

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