Here at Enabling Devices, we can’t think of a more enjoyable or powerful way to learn, than by watching a really fine TED Talk. For the uninitiated, “TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less).”
There are TED Talks on just about any topic you can imagine including all sorts of topics related to disabilities. TED Talks challenge viewers to reconsider their beliefs and assumptions and to discover new ways of thinking about nearly everything under the sun.
For your viewing pleasure, we’ve taken the liberty of curating a list of the best TED Talks from people living and thriving with disabilities.
At 19 years of age, Joshua Prager was hit by a truck driven by a man with 27 prior moving violations, while riding in a mini-bus in Jerusalem. The accident, left him with quadriplegia, and though he eventually regained the ability to walk, albeit with a limp and using a cane, his life was changed forever. Determined to win an apology from the man who caused his life-long disability, Prager returned to Jerusalem and gained some unexpected insights.
When performance artist, Sue Austin got her first power wheelchair, she was thrilled by her newfound freedom. But she was surprised to find that others viewed the wheelchair through a different and decidedly negative lens. Even more puzzling, Austin felt that once she began using a wheelchair, “people couldn’t see me anymore.” In time, Austin found that she began to see herself through their eyes. So Austin took action. She developed an arts practice and discovered that through the creative activities she pursued while in her wheelchair, Austin was able to “remake her identity and transform preconceptions …”
Born without fibula bones, athlete, actress, model and advocate, Aimee Mullins had her lower legs amputated at the age on 1 year old. The disability didn’t stop her from becoming—among many other things— an internationally-known athlete, who is the first person without legs of either gender, to have competed against able-bodied people in NCAA Division I track and field events, to serve as iconic fashion designer, Alexander McQueen’s muse, and to be voted one of People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People In the World. In this popular TED Talk, Mullins, displays her 12 separate pairs of legs, and shares how thanks to the combination of art and technology, people with disabilities can be the “architects of their own identities.”
Stella Young, an Australian comedian, journalist and disability rights activist who was born with a congenital bone disorder wants people without disabilities to know that she and other people with disabilities are no more inspirational or exceptional than anyone else. Her entertaining, yet meaningful TED Talk points out the ways in which “inspiration porn” objectifies people with disabilities to benefit people without them.
Stand-up comedian, actress and disabilities advocate, Maysoon Zayid was born with cerebral palsy. As a woman who is Palestinian, Muslim and [she jokes], lives in New Jersey, Zayid says that she’s got lots of issues beyond her disability to contend with. In this humorous, and upbeat TED Talk, Zayid shares how her parents’ determination that she would do everything her three non-disabled sisters did helped her to overcome many of the obstacles she faced. Zayid hopes that through her comedy and social action, she can help to create a more positive image of disability.