Individuals with Special Needs Who Are Changing the World
At Nadler Biernath, we work with some exceptional families. Through them, and through our work with the special needs community here in town, we know how important it is for kids with different abilities to see themselves represented in all fields.
The individuals below are standouts in different areas, but all have something in common: They’ve dedicated themselves to making the world more inclusive for people with disabilities.
When actress Ali Stroker accepted her Tony award for best featured actress in a musical for “Oklahoma,” she knew how important the win would be for special needs kids aspiring to act, sing or dance professionally. Paralyzed from the chest down in a car accident as a toddler, Ali supports inclusive casting, believing that roles should be open to actors of all abilities, whether they’re specifically written that way or not. Now also the star of a Lifetime Christmas movie, Ali hopes to model a new type of romantic lead.
Growing up in a sports-loving house with two brothers, Atlanta native Kyle Pease never assumed his special needs would keep him off the field or course. When his older brother Brent began competing in triathlons, Kyle wanted to find a way to participate, too. In 2011, the two began racing together, using specially built wheelchairs, bikes and rafts to support Kyle, who has limited mobility due to his spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy. Now Ironman triathletes, Kyle and Brent run the Kyle Pease Foundation to help other special needs athletes overcome barriers to participating in adaptive sports.
After her TED Talk, “Why design should include everyone,” Irish teacher and writer Sinéad Burke became an international name in the call to improve accessible design, detailing the challenges she faces as a little person moving through public spaces. With a background in fashion blogging, Sinéad also zeroed in on the lack of inclusive sizing, representation and access to interview opportunities in industry jobs. She now consults with major fashion brands on how to better include all body types, hosts a podcast and is pursuing a Ph.D. She became the first little person to be featured on the cover of Vogue UK, in an issue guest edited by Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex.
When 21-year-old Chris Nikic became the first individual with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman earlier this year, he proved that determination can break down even the most difficult goals. Chris started life with physical challenges that might have held him back: He walked at age 4 and learned to ride a bike at 15. But it was the constant messaging that he should hold himself back—that he should limit his own potential—that left him feeling excluded and isolated. Sports helped, and eventually, working with volunteer coach Dan Grieb, Chris decided to train for an Ironman. His message after the finish: “Do not put a lid on me.”
A longtime fan of StoryCorps, the public history project recording stories from people of all backgrounds, Alice Wong realized that individuals with disabilities rarely got the chance to share their experiences from their own perspective. Born with spinal muscular dystrophy, Alice created the Disability Visibility Project to function as a hub for disability-related media. The site encourages people with special needs to record their own histories through StoryCorps, submit original essays and participate in other projects, like podcasts or Twitter chats. She also served on the National Council on Disability as an advisor to President Barack Obama.
Kayla McKeon found joy and fulfillment through her participation in the Special Olympics, earning silver and bronze medals in the Athens Games. But, as a woman with Down syndrome, she was still frustrated by many of the antiquated laws in her state limiting the potential of individuals with special needs. She became the first registered lobbyist with Down syndrome, heading to Washington, D.C., to push for movement on issues like marriage access. She continues to advocate for changes that will expand the rights of special needs individuals while preserving their benefits.
Speak With an Atlanta Special Needs Lawyer
At Nadler Biernath, we have experience handling all aspects of special needs planning. Call us today at 770-999-9799 to schedule your initial consultation to discuss how we can help your loved ones.