Five’s a pretty arbitrary number, and a misleadingly low one when it comes to high-impact amputees. The reality is that thousands of amputees went above and beyond in 2020, as they do every year. But we don’t have time to write up thousands of briefs, and you don’t have time to read them. Besides, an article that long would take forever to load, and it would end up crashing your phone and our website.
So, five it is. Let’s get right to them.
This fourteen-year-old congenital arm amputee (left below elbow) roared into 2020 as one of the stars of Marvel’s Hero Project, which debuted in late 2019. The momentum from that high-visibility project carried into this year, as Reeves continued working through her nonprofit, Born Just Right, to advocate for inclusion, diversity, and the empowerment of kids.
The year began with recognition of Reeves’ 2019 book, also called Born Just Right, as one of the Best STEM Books for 2020. In July she was named to Diversability’s D30 Disability Impact List as part of the festivities surrounding the Americans With Disabilities Act’s 30th anniversary. In October, Born Just Right won a $10,000 grant for designing an accessible guitar at Microsoft’s Hackathon 2020. And two weeks ago Reeves appeared as one of five honorees in Time Magazine‘s first ever “Kid of the Year” issue.
Reeves turns 15 years old in a couple of weeks, and to celebrate her birthday she’s raising funds to help kids afford the tuition for Born Just Right’s Boost design workshops. You can make a donation at the campaign’s Facebook page.
Read about the invention that put Reeves on the map for disability design in our June 2019 issue.
Robinson has been making a difference for the last decade as one of the nation’s most prominent advocates for disability employment. His nonprofit, Our Ability, promotes career opportunity for individuals with disabilities and helps businesses leverage the talent in the disabled workforce.
This year—just this month, in fact—Robinson (a quadruple amputee) achieved a long-term goal by launching a next-generation resource to advance his mission: Jobs Ability. Developed over the last 18 months, Jobs Ability is a fully accessible, AI-powered employment portal to help disabled workers and inclusive employers connect with each other. In essence, it’s LinkedIn with an Alexa-style interface—watch this video of Robinson giving Jobs Ability a test drive to get the basic idea.
In addition to its dynamic platform, Jobs Ability features hundreds of thousands of “help wanted” listings from employers who are highly motivated to hire qualified candidates with disabilities. There’s never been anything like it for disabled job seekers. Jobs Ability officially launched on December 7. Here’s where you can create your account.
Read Robinson’s tips for navigating the job market in the pandemic economy.
You probably missed it during the heat of the presidential campaign, but the Democratic senator from Illinois co-sponsored two bills this year that could profoundly improve amputees’ quality of life. The first, introduced in late July with Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn, would fund a pioneering study about the cost of prosthetic devices, the gaps in insurance for amputees, and the overall economic impact of amputation on individual families. The Amputee Coalition had a strong voice in crafting the legislation, calling it “a game changer in how we talk about and plan for post-amputation care and recovery.”
Two weeks later, Duckworth (a bilateral leg amputee) was one of five senators to introduce the bipartisan Medicare Orthotics and Prosthetics Patient-Centered Care Act. This bill would revise the way Medicare classifies prosthetic devices, enabling patients covered by Medicare to get better
When not legislating or being vetted as a possible vice presidential candidate, Duckworth was exchanging views on fashion with Vogue and recounting her journey from military service to elected office in our September/October issue.
Across the Atlantic we go to the UK, where a five-year-old bilateral amputee named Tony Hudgell raised ₤1.5 million this spring for the hospital that saved his life. Let those two numbers sink in for a moment: five years old; ₤1.5 million (which translates to $2 million).
Tony lost his legs in 2017 because of horrific child abuse he suffered as an infant. His injuries would have killed him outright if not for the heroic efforts of doctors and nurses at Evelina London, a children’s hospital that treats more than 100,000 patients a year. Earlier this year, after receiving his first pair of prosthetic legs and learning to walk, Tony—inspired by a 100-year-old British Army veteran named Tom Moore—set out to walk 10 kilometers during the month of June, with the modest goal of raising ₤500 for Evelina. Prince William and Kate Middleton tweeted out a congratulatory message, and the campaign took off. He completed the 10k five days early, and by the end of June he’d surpassed ₤1 million in donations. The contributions have kept piling up ever since (you can still make one if you want).
Last month Evelina announced the first of several projects that will be funded by Tony’s gift. Meanwhile, Tony (now six years old) capped off the year by receiving a Pride of Britain Award from the Daily Mirror and having his exploits memorialized in a children’s book, Go Tony Go! When he sent a copy of the book to Buckingham Palace, he received a response from none other than Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth. Go Tony go, indeed.
Funny how the universe operates sometimes. We only discovered Akighir because she owns a cake shop, and we were looking for recipes to include in our Great Amputee Bake Off series. So we messaged her on Facebook, and she sent us a recipe, which we published—and only then did we discover that baking is just a small and relatively insignificant part of Akighir’s story.
As you may have read at Amplitude last month, Akhigir is one of the most prominent voices for disability rights in Africa’s largest nation, Nigeria. This year she and other activists celebrated a landmark achievement, the establishment of Nigeria’s first National Commission for Persons with Disabilities. Its creation in September came after a 20-plus-year battle by amputees and other Nigerians with disabilities seeking equal protection under the law.
That alone would jusify Akighir’s inclusion on this list, but there’s more. She also earned nominations for two social justice awards and was named one of the top 10 young leaders driving social change in Nigeria. “I have a clear vision of my mission in this life,” she says, “which is to encourage and inspire those who find themselves in a situation similar to mine and have given up on themselves.”