Losing one of your senses can be a very daunting affair to get used to, most people are likely to regard the event as the end of the world and simply refuse to forge ahead in any meaningful way. However, there are a few people who have lost their sight and still managed to work their way up to the very top of the society’s ladder, earning adoration, fame, and proving there is ability even in disability as one of the famous blind people in the world.
From politics to entertainment and sports, several blind people have found staggering successes. Being different has not held them back from displaying their abilities; rather, it has challenged them to do so vehemently and with pride. We have compiled a list of ten famous blind people who are an absolute inspiration to the rest of us, they’ve helped us to see more clearly that the only limit to what we can do is our imagination.
10 Famous Blind People Who’ve Inspired Us All
1. Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder is not just one of the most famous blind people in the world, he is a legendary singer whose music cut across eras, gripping the hearts of the young and old with his achingly beautiful piano notes and mellow voice. Stevland Hardaway Morris is known for his retro style funk pop that birthed numerous hit songs and catapulted him to the top of music charts everywhere.
He was born prematurely, six weeks before his due date. During the time he spent in the incubator, he developed a problem called retinopathy of prematurity, a tragic condition that inhibited the growth of his eyes and detached his retina, causing him to go blind. Despite this, Stevie had a passion for music and pursued it relentlessly. By age 4, he was a regular in the church choir. He learned to play the piano, drums, and harmonica. When Stevie was only 11, he got signed to Motown’s Tamia Label. Two years later, his hit single, Fingertips peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, making the little wonder boy the youngest artist to top the chart.
He went on to produce many more astounding works such as You’re The Sunshine of My Life, I Was Made to Love Her, Superstition, and Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours. Stevie has received 25 Grammy awards and is critically acclaimed for producing up to 30 US top ten hits. He is still the only Motown artist and second African American musician to win an Academy Award, this was for Best Original Song and thanks to his I Just Called to Say I Love You hit. Till date, Stevie wonder continues to record and produce music with melodious instrumentals and poignant lyrics touching on a variety of human conditions. He is regarded as one of the top 60 music artists to achieve the most critical and commercial success in history.
2. Ray Charles
This great American musician is fondly called “The High Priest of Soul” for blending blues, gospel, as well as rhythm and blues. He became completely blind when he was just 7 years old after struggling with glaucoma and the consequent declining vision for two years. Ray took an interest in music at an early age and began learning to play classical piano. At 14, disaster visited young Ray Charles again. He lost his cherished mom and brother and had to move in with some of his mother’s friends who lived in another time.
Shortly after his family was laid to rest, Ray got expelled from school for being a prankster. When he was 16, he left Jacksonville for Orlando in search of better opportunities for his music career but he found squalor and hunger instead. Work was hard to come by, and he had to go days without eating, but he was still determined to strive for a successful career in music.
Ray holds the record of being one of the first musicians to be inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. He also received recognition from President Barack Obama for his rendition of “America the beautiful”, which was recognized as one of the most patriotic pieces in American music history. Ray is without doubt one of the most influential music artists that have ever lived, so his presence on this list of most famous blind people is undisputed and well-earned.
3. Andrea Bocelli
The world is familiar with renowned classical music composers like Bach, Beethoven, and Pavarotti, but there’s another world-class musician and king of opera who has redefined the world of classical music with his angelic voice, and that person is no other than Andrea Bocelli. This great Italian singer, songwriter and record producer’s road to fame is as rare and inspiring as they come. His mother was advised to terminate her pregnancy to prevent giving birth to a child with numerous disabilities. She rejected the recommendation and the result of that decision is Andrea Bocelli.
After his birth, he was diagnosed with congenital glaucoma. Growing up as a child, Andrea found a lot of comfort in music, learning to play the trumpet, guitar, saxophone, drums, flute, trombone, and sing to his heart’s content. He lost his sight when he was 12 years old following an accident while he was playing football. He did not let this setback keep him away from his dreams, he went on to record several award-winning studio albums. He has nine completed operas to his credit and has won the prestigious Grammy numerous times. Andrea has earned his spot as one of the most famous blind people to have walked this earth. He was recognized as the grand officer of the order of merit of the Italian Republic in 2006, and he continues to inspire listeners all over the world with the sheer breadth of emotion in his music.
4. Marla Lee Runyan
Marla is a truly phenomenal woman who has excelled in the world of athletics despite being legally blind. This American track and field athlete has been blind since she was 9 years old. She is renowned as a three-time National Champion, a daring icon in the Paralympics with five gold medals to her name, and the first blind athlete in the Olympics.
She’s a masters degree holder in both Communication Disorder and Special Education. Marla is the author of the best selling book, No Finish Line: My Life As I See It, wherein she told her life story, challenges, and the desire to live on. Marla has won numerous awards in track and field, marathon races, and road running. It’d be difficult to talk about famous blind people who are moving and shaking the world without Marla’s name coming up as one to admire and draw inspiration from.
5. John Bramblitt
Here’s another incredible person who made it to this list of famous blind people who inspire everyone. Bramblitt lost his sight when he was 20, due to prolonged and intense seizures caused by epilepsy and Lyme’s disease. After he lost his sight, he became deeply depressed and lost the will to live until he found relief in painting. He discovered he could identify different colours by their textures. To him, painting does not just allow him to produce images but also let him portray the beauty of the purity of his vision, drawn from the depth of an unending passion to exist and be appreciated.
John’s works have been exhibited in over thirty countries. His story has been the subject of several media showcases, including an award-winning documentary. Bramblitt is a recipient of not one, but three U.S. presidential awards. His exceptional skill was voted the Most inspirational Video in 2008 after a Clio of his paintings was uploaded on YouTube. He is the author of the award-winning book, Shouting in the Dark.
6. Pete Eckert
If you think blind people can’t create magnificent visually appealing photographs, then meet Pete Eckert. After the doctor diagnosed him of retina pigmentosa, the reality dawned on him that he won’t be able to see after a while till the end of his life. In the search for a source of living, he stumbled on his mother-in-law’s camera and decided to go into photography. His photos are so astonishing, causing most people to doubt if the visual artist behind such works is really blind.
Pete has stated more than once that he is a visual person, he just cannot see, reiterating that there are many ways of seeing that does not require sight. He uses sound, memory, and touch to create exceptional photos every day. He is fondly referred to as the “tourist in a sighted world”.
7. Casey Harris
This exceptional pop star with a single kidney is one of the most famous blind people ever. During childhood, Harris suffered from a severe genetic condition, Senior-Loten syndrome which affects the retina and kidney. This condition made him blind since birth. Following his kidney issues, his mother donated one of her kidneys to him. He is currently the pianist of the X-Ambassadors, his brother’s band group and one of the popular American rock bands from New York.
Casey is one of the most successful and popular faces in the music industry, his strength and success despite the adversity he has endured in his personal life speak positivity to his fans and the world he lives in.
8. Helen Keller
At a time when most people couldn’t contemplate the idea of a teacher who was tone deaf and blind, Hellen Keller proved that anything was possible. She is reckoned as the first deaf and blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree. Hellen suffered from a sickness diagnosed as acute congestion of the stomach and brain, which made her deaf and blind from birth. She later became a world-famous speaker, political activist, lecturer, and author. Thus, it was only natural she was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of fame in 1821.
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9. Derek Rabelo
Derek is really someone to be reckoned with in this list of top famous blind people who inspire us to make the best of ourselves. He suffered from glaucoma and became blind at birth. Derek always wished to be a surfer just like his father dreamt of. Through his father’s support, Derek learned surfing, and today, he surfs the oceans by feeling the sound of the waves. He travels around the world telling his life story which proves that blindness does not inhibit your dreams but challenges you to maximize more of your God-given senses and talent.
10. David Alexander Paterson
Paterson is the second blind person to occupy the position of governor in the United States. When he was 3 months old, he suffered from an ear infection that spread to his optic nerve and left him blind in his left eye and barely seeing with his right eye. He then became legally blind. As a governor, he read his office documents through voice mail. Even with his disability, he was a daring and competent leader that dealt with issues relating to racism, stem cells research, voting rights, and much more. He is the first black American governor in New York and one of the most famous blind people to venture into politics.
Disabilities are just circumstantial, not inclined to serve as permanent limitations. This list of most famous blind people has proved just that.