For the third straight year, we’re wrapping up the calendar with special props for a handful of amputees who made outstanding contributions to the limb-loss community over the previous 12 months. To be clear, they’re not the only people who made a difference in 2022. But it would be impossible to recognize everyone, so we’re singling out a few people who, frankly, went a little bonkers in their efforts to redefine the boundaries of limb difference.
It so happens that all five of the people we’re featuring this year are women. Fellas, what’s up with that? You can look back at last year’s list here, and the 2020 list is at this link. See you in 2023.
We’re not sure if Lindell reached her goal of teaching 1 million people about ableism during the course of 2022. And, really, is anyone still counting? Her tally stood at 370,000 as of early summer, and that’s more than most of us will reach in a lifetime. So even if Lindell “only” ended up educating 700,000 or 800,000 people this year, we’re rounding up and calling it an even million. A corporate disability consultant and advocate, Lindell helps employers create more inclusive workplaces and tap the underutilized talent within the adaptive community. Her efforts landed her on Diversability’s D-30 Impact List, which honors global catalysts for change on behalf of people with disabilities. Find her on Instagram at @kelsey_lindell.
It’ll be a few months before we learn if Sullivan gets nominated for a Tony Award. But whether or not she ends up with a trophy, her return to the stage as Ani in Cost of Living is an extraordinary triumph. Just the second amputee actor ever to appear on Broadway (and the first woman), Sullivan won universal raves and has appeared on year-end best-of lists in the New York Times and New York Theater. “It doesn’t happen every day that you see a performer with a disability on stage, especially on Broadway,” she told Amplitude this summer. “One of us kicking the door down can’t help but lead the way for other people. I really hope my role will be a tipping point.” In so many ways, it already has been. She’s on Insta at @realkatysullivan.
Since 2016, Knott has been quietly plugging away in her quest to develop a “vending-machine” app that lets users order affordable prosthetic devices from their phones. This year she attracted VC funding for another project on her drawing board—an adapter kit that helps upper-limb prosthesis wearers get a surer grip on bicycle handlebars. Knott got that idea during a two-year sojourn in China, where bicycles are ubiquitous—and where she had a near-fatal accident when her prosthetic arm slipped. She had better luck after moving to another cycling-centric location, Amsterdam, which offers ready access to adaptive bikes. “I was blessed to figure out early in my lifetime that my disability was not a disadvantage but an advantage,” Knott said recently in a Medium post. “Making customized prosthetic limbs and adaptive wearables accessible and inclusive is my destiny.” Visit her company, AK Prosthetics, on the web, and follow Knott on Instagram at @aderoknott.
Don’t think one person can change the system? Somebody forgot to tell Simpson. While finishing up her social work degree at the University of New England, she made a presentation about insurers’ routine denials of prosthetic coverage. That caught the attention of a Maine state legislator, who collaborated with Simpson on a bill that essentially redefines recreational prosthetic devices as “medically necessary” for people under age 26. The bill became law this year with broad, bipartisan support, and Simpson immediately started building on that success. She’s now partnering with AOPA on a national campaign (dubbed “So Kids Can Move”) to get similar legislation passed in every state. “I know children and adults are still experiencing what I did,” she told the Portland Press-Herald. “Insurance companies should not play a part in determining what is right or wrong for a person. My goal is to see this change nationally.”
She fought the law (aka the International Paralympic Committee) and the law lost, for once. After overturning the IPC’s ruling that she was ineligible to compete in the 2022 Winter Paralympics, Huckaby piled on by medalling in both of the events (gold in slalom, bronze in boardercross) they’d tried to keep her out of. And she did it despite a competitive disadvantage, participating as the only above-knee amputee in a field of below-knee racers. Once the snowflakes had settled, Huckaby swapped out her snowboard for a pair of hiking poles and trumped up Cotopaxi on ROMP’s annual fundraising climb—an event that netted more than $100,000 to bring prosthetic care to underserved amputees. “I’ve always been someone who speaks out about inclusion and equal access to opportunities,” she told Amplitude earlier this year. “The more we can raise others up, we’re ultimately raising ourselves up as well.” Follow her on Instagram at @bren_hucks.