Until very recently, there has been far too little visibility for disabled people, but that is finally changing.
The most talked about Super Bowl ad this year featured decorated Paralympian Jessica Long, sharing the incredible story of her journey from an orphanage in Russia to competing at the Paralympic Games as a double amputee. The Obama-produced Netflix documentary, Crip Camp – recently nominated for an Academy Award – chronicled a 1970s summer camp that brought together disabled youth. Many who met at Camp Jened started the revolution that would become the International Disability Rights Movement.
Today, millions of disabled people still experience discrimination. Much has been done, more is needed.
To further increase visibility of disability, now comes the book PURE GRIT: Stories of Remarkable People Living with Physical Disability (Gillette Children’s Healthcare Press; on-sale August 2021; ISBN 978-1-952181-03-0) by Lily Collison and Kara Buckley. All proceeds from the book go to physical disability research.
This galvanizing title shines a bright light on nineteen disabled people from across the globe, ranging in age from twenty to seventy-plus, who are living and thriving in diverse fields – from sport to the arts to medicine, business and more. With refreshing frankness, they share their successes along with their struggles.
Among these are:
- Jessica Long: Jessica is a U.S. Paralympic swimmer who was adopted as a young child from Russia. She is an amputee as a result of fibular hemimelia.
- Lex Gillette: Lex is a U.S. Paralympic long jumper. He has been blind since childhood.
- Judy Heumann: Judy is an international disability rights advocate. She contracted polio in childhood.
- Ila Eckhoff: Ila is a managing director at BlackRock’s New York office and has cerebral palsy.
- Jerron Herman: Jerron is both a professional dancer and writer. He has hemiplegia.
- Jim Abbott: Jim is a professional speaker and former Major League Baseball pitcher. He was born without a right hand.
- Haraldur Thorleifsson: Halli is an Icelandic digital designer and founder of the company Ueno, which was bought by Twitter where he now works. He has muscular dystrophy.
- Ellie Cole: Ellie is an Australian Paralympic swimmer. She is an amputee as a result of cancer.
- Justin Gallegos: Justin is a recent graduate from the University of Oregon and a professional distance runner, sponsored by Nike. He has cerebral palsy.
- Tom Shakespeare: Tom is a social scientist, bioethicist, and academic. He has restricted growth.
- Jan Brunstrom-Hernandez: Based in Texas, “Dr. Jan” is a pediatric neurologist specializing in cerebral palsy care. She has spastic diplegia.
- Chantal Petitclerc: Chantal is a Canadian senator and retired Paralympic wheelchair racer. She became paralyzed as a result of an accident in adolescence.
- Rachel Wobschall: Rachel has had a long career in government, education, and health. She has spastic diplegia.
- Tanni Grey-Thompson: Tanni is a member of the UK House of Lords and a retired Paralympic wheelchair racer. She has spina bifida.
- Elizabeth Kolbe Hardcastle: Elizabeth (Beth) is a lawyer in Washington, D.C., and a retired Paralympic swimmer. She became paralyzed as a result of a car accident in adolescence.
- Patrick Flanagan: Patrick is a recent graduate from the University College Dublin and is a swimmer training for the postponed Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. He has spina bifida.
- Cathryn Gray: Cathryn is a student at the University of Michigan and a track-and-field athlete. She has spastic diplegia.
- Robin Barnett: Robin is a career diplomat and former British ambassador to Romania, Poland, and Ireland. He has hemiplegia.
Notable children’s advocate Marian Wright Edelman coined the phrase, “you can’t be what you can’t see.” Collison and Buckley aim to make visible these stories of grit. These are not stories of people overcoming disability – they’re stories of people accommodating disability while pursuing their dreams. PURE GRIT will help people see in order to be.
Many have added their own voice to champion PURE GRIT. The U.S. Chief of Paralympic Sport, Julie Dussliere, called the book “a must-read.” Casey Wasserman, the Chairperson of the LA28 Olympic and Paralympic Games, called the book “extraordinary.” And the former CMO of NBC Sports Group, John D. Miller, said the book is “beautifully told.”
About the authors:
Lily Collison is parent of three adult sons, the youngest of whom has spastic diplegia (a form of cerebral palsy). She previously worked in education and industry and is author of Spastic Diplegia–Bilateral Cerebral Palsy, published in 2020 by Gillette Children’s Healthcare Press. She lives in Ireland with her husband.
Kara Buckley is Senior Advisor to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. She previously held the position of Global Director at Visa, leading partnerships with Olympians and Paralympians. She lives in Oregon with her husband and two children.