Research has shown that when employees with disabilities have role models at the leadership level in their organisation who have also disclosed disabilities, they are 15%* more likely to have higher career aspirations than their peers in other organisations, and they are 26%* more likely to be open about their disability.
1. Richard Branson
Branson, the founder of Virgin Group which earns over £16.6 billion in annual revenue, has attributed much of his success to his dyslexia and learning disabilities. Despite not being diagnosed until his twenties, Branson remembers being at the bottom of his class, and the frustration of struggling to read and write, but now he describes his dyslexia as a superpower, and works with the Made By Dyslexia charity to encourage businesses to understand the benefits of neurodiversity.
2. James LeBrecht
A filmmaker with spina bifida, LeBrecht became a disability activist and filmmaker, gaining his first Oscar nomination in 2020 with the Netflix documentary ‘Crip Camp’, the subject of which is the summer camp for disabled children he attended along with other incredible disability activists, including Judith Heumann. His other works include documentaries about skateboarding and climate change and films starring John Travolta and Jason Scott Lee.
3. Haben Girma
The first deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School, Girma works to increase access to books and digital information for people with disabilities. She won a key case extending protections for people with disabilities to online businesses as well as physical ones, and has worked with President Obama and Disability Rights Advocates, among others, to improve disability accessibility.
4. Rosie Jones
A celebrated comedian, writer and actor, Jones has written for comedy shows, including an episode of Netflix’s ‘Sex Education’, and performed stand-up at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and for Comic Relief. Jones incorporates her disability into her comedy, with jokes like “As you can tell from my voice, I suffer from being northern,” and she has spoken openly about the importance of gay and disabled role models.
5. Hu Shiqun
The deaf artist Hu founded a Shanghai street art studio specialising in 3D wall and ground paintings. He started to plan his own studio in 2014, when he realised that everyone around him was talking about starting businesses, but none of them were people with disabilities. He now works with a team of disabled artists, communicating with his clients through typed words, and says that “After all we’ve been through, we have proved that we’re able to live on what we love, and I hope that will inspire other disabled people to chase their dreams.”