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Disability Experiences: People with Disabilities Throughout History


US Presidents with Confirmed/Suspected Disabilities

The following nine (9) US Presidents overcame the obstacles presented by their disabilities throughout their lives and presidencies. They serve as a wonderful example that having a disability does not necessarily make one "disabled."

George Washington, 1732-1799, 1st US President
President Washington was unable to spell throughout his life and his grammar usage was very poor. He is now thought to have had learning disabilities.

Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826, 3rd US President
Having been noted for "peculiar" behavior throughout his life by numerous historians, it is speculated that President Jefferson had Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of Autism. Norm Ledgin has written a book making a convincing case for the claim: Diagnosing Jefferson: Evidence of a Condition that Guided his Beliefs, Behavior, and Personal Associations

James Madison, 1751-1836, 4th US President
Often referred to as the Father of the Constitution, it is thought that James Madison experienced siezures throughout his life and may have had Epilepsy.

Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865, 16th US President
Having experienced numerous debilitating depressive episodes throughout his life, it has been surmised that President Lincoln was "clinically depressed." Here is a great blog article, written by an NHU guest blogger that discusses Lincoln's ability to overcome his illness.

Woodrow Wilson, 1856-1924, 28th US President
This World War I leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, was unable to read in his early childhood and is thought to have had Dyslexia.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1882-1945, 32nd US President
FDR is famously the only president to utilize a wheelchair throughout the majority of his adult life and presidency. President Roosevelt worked very hard to hide the extent of his disability and would often rely on aides to keep him upright during speeches and appearances. Read NHU's blog article, An Open Letter to FDR, Gone, But Never Forgotten.

John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963, 35th US President
President Kennedy endured chronic back and abdominal throughout his life. He was diagnosed with colitis at the age of 13 and Addison's Disease by the time he was 30 years old. The President relied on almost a dozen medications and daily corticosteroids injections to get him through the day.

Ronald Reagan, 1911-2004, 40th US President
President Reagan utlilized hearing aids throughout his presidency.

William Jefferson Clinton, 1946-, 42nd US President
While not profoundly deaf, Bill Clinton, at the age of 51 was fitted with a pair of CIC ("completely in canal") devices to aid him with high-frequency hearing.


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[Updated January 10, 2013]
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