October Heritage Month

For National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the OVPR would like to recognize some key scholars and scientists. 

Ann Bancroft, Polar Explorer. Born 1955, she is also an American author and teacher, who earned national recognition for several difficult explorations of the Arctic and Antarctic. Regardless of struggles with a learning disability Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) in her youth, she became the first woman to successfully complete these incredible expeditions resulting in several awards including inductee into the National Women’s Hall of Fame (1995).

Farida Bedwei, Software engineer from Ghana (b. 1979). She is acknowledged as one of South Africa’s most important figures in financial technology, particularly banking applications, and as a pioneer of cloud platforms that have helped make small loan decisions available to consumers across the world immediately. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of one, she works to educate both parents and sufferers that this condition does not prevent anyone from achieving their goals.

Ralph Braun, Inventor. Founder and CEO of the Braun Corporation, Ralph Braun (1940-2013) was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at age seven. He started using a wheelchair at the age of 14. Motivated to be independent, he created a motorized wagon at age 15 with his father to help him get around. Five years later, Braun created a motorized scooter helped pioneer a series of revolutionary mobility-assistance devices, which include the world’s first battery-powered scooter and wheelchair lift. Thanks to Braun, millions of physically-impaired people have been able to retain a measure of independence in their lives. In May 2012, Braun was named a "champion of change" by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Stephen Hawking, Physicist. Dr. Hawking (b. 1942) was an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author who was director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge up until his death in 2018. Diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 1963, he nevertheless used his brilliant mind to make greatly impressive, sometimes revolutionary, contributions to the understanding of the physics and the geometry of the universe. At the time of his death, he had lived with ALS for 50 years.

Edwin Krebs, Biochemist. Nobel prize-winning biochemist Krebs (1918-2009) made an extraordinary discovery in the 1950s about cellular activity in the human body that led to greater understanding about hormones, cell life spans, and even how the body can reject transplanted organs. He and colleague Edmond H. Fischer discovered a biochemical process that regulates the activities of proteins in cells and thus governs countless processes that are necessary for life. Although hearing impaired, Krebs pursued his work. It is said that he was one of the last people to learn he had received the Nobel for Physiology or Medicine in 1992 because he was unable to hear the phone ring.

Richard Leakey, Paleontologist and Conservationist. Dr. Leakey (b. 1944) is famous for his discovery of near-complete bone sets related to human evolution and his conservation work in his native Kenya. Devoted to the preservation of Kenya’s wildlife and sanctuaries, he campaigned to reduce corruption and ivory poachers and restore the security of Kenya’s national parks.  In 1993 he survived a plane crash in which he lost both his legs below the knee. After recovering, Leakey resumed efforts to rework Kenya’s constitution to better serve its people.

Louis Pasteur, French Chemist and Microbiologist. Despite dyslexia and dysgraphia, Dr. Pasteur (1822-1895) is considered one of the world’s greatest scientists to this day. He made important discoveries in the principles of vaccination. Of note, he and his research team developed vaccinations for anthrax and rabies. He also invented a food preparation process named after him: pasteurization.

Florence B. Seibert, Biochemist. Dr. Seibert (1897-1991) was an American-born chemist who was mobility impaired due to being a survivor of polio. She discovered the first reliable tuberculosis test that was adopted by the World Health Organization in 1951 and is still used today. She is also known for her contributions to safe intravenous drug therapy. During her doctoral research, she discovered that discovered problems with intravenous injections and invented a new distillation process that eliminated all bacteria from the process.

Alice Wong, Founder-Project Coordinator of Disability Visibility Project, which collects oral histories of people with disabilities in the United States. Alice, who has spinal muscular atrophy, is also a strong advocate’s voice as an advisory board member for Asians and Pacific Islanders with Disabilities of California (APIDC). From 2013-15 she was the presidential appointee to the National Council on Disability, which advises the president, Congress, and other federal agencies on disability policies, programs, and practices.