Helen Keller was born on June 27, 1880, in Alabama. She is an educator and advocate for the blind and deaf, having overcome the hardships of being deaf-blind due to a “brain fever” at two years old. Her teacher, Anne Sullivan, nurtured Keller’s ability to communicate using sign language and tactile methods. She went on to pursue an education in several deaf or blind schools and eventually received a diploma at Radcliffe College.
As an advocate for women’s suffrage, disability rights, and pacifism among other social and political issues, Keller became a well-known figure and lecturer by sharing her experiences and working with other disabled people. She testified before Congress to advocate for the welfare of blind people. She co-founded Helen Keller International in 1915 to address the causes and consequences of blindness and malnutrition; she helped found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) five years later.
Following the establishment of the American Federation for the Blind, Keller had a national outlet for her activism, campaigning for awareness, funding, and support for the blind. She wrote a coming-of-age memoir, The Story of My Life, which documented her transition from childhood to adulthood. She faced constant prejudice due to her disability but also received support for her courage and confidence. She became a counselor for the American Foundation of Overseas Blind and completed a five-month trek across Asia at 75, bringing inspiration to millions of people.
Mia Mingus was born in Korea, adopted by white parents in the Caribbean, and currently lives in California. She is “a queer physically disabled Korean woman transracial and transational adoptee.” She is a writer, educator, and trailer for transformative and disability justice.
Mingus is the founder of SOIL: A Transformative Justice Project, which “builds the “soil” for transformative justice to grow and thrive.” She strives to transform violence by building the foundations and skills to combat that within her communities. She also helped create the disability justice framework, and has coined terms such as “access intimacy,” “magnificence,” “politically and descriptively disabled” and “forced intimacy.” She continues to educate a worldwide audience on disability, ableism, access, disability justice, and abled supremacy.
Her notable recognitions include being named a Champion of Change by the White House, a 2005 New Voices Fellow, one of Advocates 40 Under 40, one of the 30 Most Influential Asian Americans Under 30 in 2009 by Angry Asian Man, and one of Campus Pride’s Top 25 LGBT Favorite speakers from 2009 to 2011 among others. She strives for a world where “disabled children can live free of violence, with dignity and love.”