Freek and Stevie Wonder, a famous blind musician at Hable Exhibition

Blind Icons: The Stories of 3 Famous Blind People Who Changed the World


Who said that you can’t be successful if you have a disability? Exactly, no one! The people in this list have once again proven that a disability such as blindness doesn’t have to hold you back in life.

They have shown the world that even with no sight, you can still accomplish great things and reach your goals.

Stevie Wonder 

We all know the ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’ singer as Stevie Wonder, but he was born as Steveland Hardaway Judkins. He later changed his name to Steveland Hardaway Morris. He was born on May 13th 1950 in Michigan, United States of America.

For those that don’t know. Stevie Wonder is a singer-songwriter, musician and producer. He is often considered a musical genius and a pioneer in many musical genres. 

Some of his biggest accomplishments: 

  • Wonder was the youngest solo artist ever welcomed into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  • He sold more than 100 million albums
  • Stevie won 25 Grammy’s

His condition

Wonder has been living with his disability his entire life. Contrary to popular belief, Wonder wasn’t born blind. Stevie was born two months premature. This caused his lungs to not function properly on their own yet.

He received too much oxygen in the incubator which led to disturbance in the blood vessels in his eyes. This condition is called Retinopathy of Prematurity. The condition caused Stevie to lose his eyesight. 

However, his disability didn’t stop the child prodigy from making a big name for himself in the music industry. 

But how does Stevie Wonder play instruments with no sight?

He taught himself to play the harmonica at five years old. When he was eight, he learned to play the drums by listening to the radio and mimicking the rhythm on a random surface in the house. During the early years of his career Wonder had many teachers that helped him improve his skills on various instruments. 

Even though his career and accomplishments already give it away. Stevie has mentioned many times that his lack of sight doesn’t hold him back and he doesn’t see it as a disadvantage. He says that God has made him this way and that he had to take what he had and make something of it. And he sure did. 

The first one in USA to use the Hable One

Fun fact, we met Stevie Wonder and he became the first person in the United states to use the Hable One! We met Stevie Wonder at CSUN in LA. This is one of the world's largest conferences for people with a visual impairment. 

At the conference, Stevie walked in just after the time it was supposed to close and came directly to the Hable One booth. Here we gave a 20 minute demo, whilst he was using the product. As Stevie is quite a technical person, we were able to go deep into understanding the tech and he absolutely loved it!

Some of our favourite songs

  • SuperstitionSigned, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)Isn’t She Lovely
Stevie Wonder and Freek Van Welsenis holding the Hable One
Stevie Wonder and Freek Van Welsenis talking and Stevie using the Hable One

Louis Braille

His name might sound familiar, especially his surname. Louis Braille was the inventor and designer of the braille code. Louis was born on January 4th 1809 in France. He passed away on January 6th 1852 after a life of different illnesses.

Louis lost his vision at the age of three. When he accidentally stabbed himself in the eye with his father’s awl, an object made to make holes in leather or wood. The infection caused by the stabbing led to blindness in both eyes. 

Braille code

He attended the National Institute for Blind Youth in Paris in 1819. While he was a student at the institute, he began developing a code. The code that would allow people who are blind or visually impaired to read and write through dots that represent letters, numbers and punctuation marks.

The code was inspired by Charles Barbier, a military cryptographer. Louis presented the code for the first time in 1824. Meaning that January 2024 was the 200th year birthday of braille! 

His legacy

After his education, Louise was a professor at the institute and he became invested in music. But most of his time was spent on defining and extending his braille code. His code wasn’t an immediate hit.

The institute he attended and later was a professor at, started using his code two years after his passing.  Nowadays, braille is recognized as a great invention and used worldwide. 

Braille is actually one of the few inventions in this world that, even after 200 years, is still used on a daily basis by a large group of people. Thinking about all the people Louis has been able to help, his legacy is truly incredible. Want to find out more about the true impact of braille? Read it in our recent blog post. (Link 🡪 Benefits of learning braille (Hable)

Helen Keller

Helen Keller was an American author, lecturer and activist. She was born on June 7th 1880 in Alabama, United States of America. Helen was both blind and deaf. She wasn’t born with these disabilities.

Helen was nineteen months old when she had an illness. It is not clear what the exact diagnosis was. The illness left Helen blind and deaf. 

Making history

Helen started her education at the Perkins Institute for the Blind in 1988. In 1900, Helen was accepted to Radcliffe College, a university in Boston. Keller made history when she graduated in 1904. She was the first person to graduate university who was blind and deaf. 

Important work

During her life, Helen used her voice for good. Helen wrote books on topics such as politics, social issues and religion. She openly fought for women’s rights and better circumstances for workers.

She was part of different organisations that raised money for people who are blind or visually impaired such as the American Foundation for the Blind. Between 1946 and 1957 Keller visited 35 countries.

She held lectures all around the world about education to the blind and deaf. During these trips she met a lot of influential people such as Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin and Franklin D. Roosevelt. 

The final years of her life were spent raising money for the American Foundation for the Blind. In 1961 Helen suffered from multiple brain haemorrhages which let her to no longer appear in public. She passed away on June 1st 1968. 

We are aware that there are a lot more people who are blind or have a visual impairment, that do great things every day. The three people on this list have shown the world that, even though you have a disability, this doesn’t have to hold you back in life.

By working hard and believing in yourself you can accomplish your goals and make an impact on others. 

Did you know about these famous people who were blind? Don't forget to share this content with your family and friends!

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