There are many examples of creative people who have not allowed disability to dictate the limits of their potential. Whether the onset of disability has occurred at birth, in childhood or adulthood, if the creative person’s spirit is strong enough, there seems to be no end to what people can achieve.  

There are many authors who have not let their disability stop them achieving artistic success. Here is a list of some of our favourite writers who overcame obstacles that would have held back less determined souls. 


1. Alan Marshall (1902-1984) was an Australian writer, storyteller, humanist, and social documenter. At age six he contracted polio which left him crippled for life, yet determined and undaunted. He is best known for his autobiographical work I Can Jump Puddles (1955) (adapted for television in 1981). 

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2. Christy Brown(1932-1981) was an Irish writer and painter who had cerebral palsy and was able to write or type only with the toes of one foot. His most recognized work is his autobiography, titled Down All the Days (1954), later made into the 1989 film My Left Foot. 


3. Helen Keller (1880-1968) was an American author, advocate and activist. She lost her sight and hearing at 19 months old. At seven, she met her first teacher and life-long companion Anne Sullivan. Her autobiography, The Story of My Life (1903) was adapted as a play (1957) and a film (1962) under the title, The Miracle Worker 


4. Truman Capote (1924-1984) was an American novelist, screenwriter, playwright, and actor who suffered all his life from epilepsy. He was a childhood friend of novelist Harper Lee, who based her character Dill on him in her novel To Kill a Mockingbird (1960). His event-filled life took him to Broadway and Hollywood. Capote’s most famous works include Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958) and In Cold Blood (1965). 


5. Stephen Hawking (1942-2018) was an English physicist, cosmologist and author, who became the Lucasian Professor of mathematics the University of Cambridge. At age twenty-one he was diagnosed with a form of motor neurone disease which gradually paralysed him. After the loss of his speech, he communicated through a speech-generating device first by use of a handheld switch, and eventually by using a single cheek muscle. He was the author of many scientific works on such topics as gravitational singularity theorems in the framework of general relativity, and the theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation, often called Hawking radiation. For the general reader, he is best known for the popular science book A Brief History of Time (1988). 

Flannery O'Connor

6. Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) was an American novelist, story writer and essayist from the deep south in Georgia. She suffered from lupus during adulthood. There are theories that the nature of her illness came to have a profound influence on her writing. Some claim her best work was produced because of it. Her best-known work is the story collection Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965). 

Jean-Dominique Bauby

7. Jean-Dominique Bauby (1952-1997) was a French journalist and editor. At age 43, he suffered a cerebrovascular seizure. It resulted in near total paralysis, except for his left eyelid. He was diagnosed with locked-in syndrome, where mental faculties remain intact but most of the body is paralysed. His speech therapist developed a 26-letter alphabet according to the frequency of use, to help him dictate. The resulting book was The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (1997).  

Temple Grandin

8. Temple Grandin (b. 1947) is an American academic, and animal behaviourist. She is also an autism spokesperson. Mary Temple Grandin is one of the first autistic people to document the insights she has gained from personal experience of autism. In 2010, Time magazine listed her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Her first book Emergence: Labeled Autistic (1986) raised widespread awareness of autism, which she has continued to develop in her subsequent books, including books, The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum (2013). 

Hilary Mantel

9. Hilary Mantel (1952-2022) was an English writer who twice won the Booker Prize for Wolf Hall (2009) and Bring Up the Bodies (2012). In her twenties, she was diagnosed – incorrectly – with psychiatric illness and treated with drugs which had the effect of producing psychotic symptoms. Later she was diagnosed with a severe form of endometriosis, which resulted in surgery that prevented her from having children. Dame Hilary Mantel died in 2022 from complications of a stroke. 

Gillian Mears

10. Gillian Mears (1964-2016) was an Australian author of such prize-winning works as Ride a Cock Horse (1989), The Mint Lawn (1990), The Grass Sister (1996), and Foal’s Bread (2012). A long-time euthanasia advocate, she died at age 51, having been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis while still in her twenties. Despite the difficulties her illness presented, Mears produced a substantial and critically acclaimed body of work.