Disability in History: U.S. Presidents


If you think that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the only United States president with a disability, think again. Our nation has had a distinguished line of presidents with a variety of visible and non-visible disabilities, from epilepsy to hearing impairments to learning disabilities.

 For most of these men, speaking publicly about their disability was discouraged during their lifetime. [1]Today, we honor them for overcoming the challenges they faced as individuals with disabilities and for leading and serving our country.



Bill-ClintonWilliam Jefferson Clinton, 1946- (hearing impairment)

42nd President of the United States (1992-2000); wears hearing aids.





general_eisenhower-150x150Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1890-1969 (learning disability)

34th President of the United States (1953-1960); leader of the victorious Allied forces in Europe during World War II.





thomas-jefferson-150x150Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826 (learning disability)

3rd President of the United States (1801-1809); author of the Declaration of Independence; remembered as a great president, a diplomat, political thinker, and founder of the Democratic Party; reported to have many learning difficulties.



jfk-1024-150x150John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 (learning disability, chronic back pain)

35th President of the United States (1960-1963); the youngest man ever elected President and the youngest ever to die in office; won world respect as the leader of the Free World.



Abraham-Lincoln-150x150Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865 (major depression)

16th President (1860-1863); suffered from severe, incapacitating, and occasional suicidal depression; also thought to have Marfan Syndrome.




James-Madison1-150x150James Madison, 1751-1836 (epilepsy)

4th President (1809-1817); drafted the Bill of Rights; often referred to as the Father of the Constitution; played a leading role in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 where he helped design the checks and balances system that equalizes the roles of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government; also created the federal system.


Ronald-Reagan-150x1501Ronald Reagan, 1911-2004 (hearing impairment)

40th President of the United States (1980-1988); also served two terms as governor of California; in 1932 became a radio announcer for WOC in Davenport, Iowa and later WHO in Des Moines, Iowa; in 1937 he signed a contract with Warner Brothers and his first film was “Love is on the Air.”


president_roosevelt-300x300Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1882-1945 (polio)

32nd President of the United States (1933-1945); promised to create jobs for the unemployed and gave assistance to those in need; suffered with polio and worked very hard to hide the extent of his disability.



0-theodore-rooseveltTheodore Roosevelt, 1858-1919 (visual impairment)

26th President of the United States (1901-1909); founder of the Progressive Party; an avid boxer, he suffered a severe blow to the head that detached his retina and led to blindness in the affected eye. [3]



george-washington-150x150George Washington, 1732-1799 (learning disability)

1st President of the United States (1789-1797); was unable to spell throughout his life and his grammar usage was very poor; thought to have learning disabilities.




woodrow-wilson-150x150Woodrow Wilson, 1856-1924 (learning disability)

28th President of the United States (1913-1921); had a stroke toward the end of his term that left him partially paralyzed; known to have a dyslexia; World War I leader awarded Nobel Peace Prize for Versailles Treaty, 1919; domestic reforms included 1914 creation of Federal Reserve.

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