9 Powerful Disability TED Talks to Unlock & Blow Your Mind

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This is a collection of some 9 powerful disability TED talks that will make you go, “ah-ha!”

They also happen to be my favorite disability TED talks.

I’m a list junkie, so it’s sort of a list for you and sort of for me, to have all the stuff I love in one place. I included what I loved about each piece, down to things like, “I like her hair.” Sometimes I’m not a very deep person.

The fact that they are all women is coincidental: I didn’t set out to make a list of “favorite disabled women on TED Talks.”

If you know of a great TED talk, would you please link it in the comments? Thanks!

Stella Young: I Am Not Your Inspiration, Thank You Very Much

Stella Young, who had Osteogenesis Imperfecta, created this classic – and coined the term, “Inspiration Porn”

Why I Like It:
  • She’s hilarious
  • She’s whip smart
  • This was a ground-breaking talk: she coined the term, “inspiration porn” and really nailed down some basic definitions and concepts
  • I like her edgy, fun fashion
  • I like her huge eyes

Wanda Diaz Merced: How a Blind Astronomer Found a Way to Hear the Stars

Wanda Diaz Merced, a blind astronomer, speaks of how she learned to hear the stars, and about disability access in science

Why I Like It:
  • This speaks to some of my deepest convictions regarding disability and the interconnectedness of life
  • She explores the sense of all that is powerful about disability and who we are as humans, as creatures in a vast, multi-dimensional universe
  • Her accent fluid way of speaking sounds like music
  • Her bone structure is lovely

Maysoon Zayid: I’ve Got 99 Problems and Palsy is One of Them

Maysoon has Cerebral Palsy, and talks of her journey being a disabled Arab-American comic.

Why I Like It:

  • She’s funny
  • She has great sound bites in there about disability representation in the media
  • She’s really pretty
  • I love her eyebrows
  • I like her voice
  • She’s really funny (yes, I said that twice: that means SHE IS FUNNY!!)

Judith Heumann: Our Fight for Disability Rights: And Why We Are Not Done Yet

My ultimate hero (remember this post I wrote on meeting her?) tells her personal story, and moves from the ADA to the Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities

Why I Like It:

    • She’s funny
    • She is so articulate
    • I like the way she talks
    • I love her smile
    • I am deeply inspired on every level by what she talks about in here: from the point of me as a parent to me as a disabled woman, it all comes together with a surge

Hannah Gadsby: 3 Ideas. 3 Contradictions. Or Not.

Hannah is an Autistic Australian lesbian and talks about being the value of being Autistic, and perspectives on being a comic.

Why I like it:

  • She is so clever. SO. CLEVER.
  • She can make me sob from my soul before deftly turning to belly laughter
  • Awesome glasses and crisp suit
  • I like her smile
  • Awesome points on Autism
  • Everything she says is, for me, so unexpected. She keeps me on my toes and I always learn something



Karen Gaffney: I Have One More Chromosome Than You: So What?

Swimmer Karen Gaffney – who has Down syndrome – speaks of prenatal testing and termination rates, just as the quality of life for individuals with Down syndrome is radically improving

Why I Like It:

  • Every time I watch this, I cry because of the truth that she speaks
  • It inspires me again, as a parent, in how important and powerful our role really is as our child’s first ally
  • I wonder what all people with Down syndrome would say to those of us without, if they could, and if we could understand?
  • Her skin is lovely

Christine Sun Kim: The Enchanting Music of Sign Language

Deaf artist Christine Sun Kim talks about the actual music of sign language and about SOUND

Why I Like It:

  • So many “YES!” and “a-ha!” moments in her talk for me
  • She really thinks outside the box
  • She’s so pretty
  • I love her beautiful signing

Sinead Burke: Why Design Should Include Everyone

Little Person Sinead Burke talks about the impact of design on access and lives

Why I Like It:

    • I never, EVER thought of so many of the points she makes: it really made me look at design differently
    • Her accent: her words sound like a bubbling brook
    • Her lipstick color, sense of style

Dame Evelyn Glennie: How to Truly Listen

Deaf drummer Evelyn Glennie talks about how to truly listen and hear.

Why I Like It:

  • The entire thing is one big “a-ha”
  • The pieces about the differences between listening and hearing? Gold.
  • She’s such an awesome drummer
  • I love her accent
  • I also really like her hair

Riva Lehrer: Valuable Bodies

Disabled painter Riva Lehrer talks about the value of the disabled body

Why I Like It:

  • Riva’s paintings are one long “a-ha!”: you really understand the core of what her talk is about when you actually see what she creates
  • It is all SO TRUE
  • I love her style: so funky American-meets-Frida

Disability TED Talks to Make You Think

TED Talks have a reputation for making you think – heck, they are designed to make you think!

I love that these powerful TED talks that I’ve included in this post really made me go “a-ha” and stretch my brain . They taught me something, and gave me glimpses of new ways of looking at the world.

I hope they did the same for you.

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Meriah Nichols is a career counselor, teacher and blogger. Single mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one gifted 2E), she is also a cat-loving Trekkie who likes her coffee hot and black.
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