9 Famous Visually Impaired Women to Inspire You

2022-09-10 | By Orcam Staff

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9 Famous Visually Impaired Women to Inspire You - OrCam

While we often hear about successful blind men like Stevie Wonder & Andrea Bocelli, here at OrCam we want to take a moment to acknowledge famous visually impaired women who really impacted our world for the better. Scroll down to read the short bios of some very impressive and awe-inspiring ladies!

Famous Visually Impaired Women In History

Helen Keller – Helen Keller is one of the most recognized names around the world when it comes to the topic of deafblindness. Helen was born able to fully see and hear but lost both senses when she was only 19 months old due to an illness. She became a tough child to manage as she was frustrated with not being able to express herself. In 1887, Helen’s life changed forever when she met Anne Sullivan, her teacher who had the patience to show her how to spell words with her hand.


Helen’s life was filled with public and personal achievements as she blazed a trail for what people with disabilities could achieve in society. In 1902, she was the first deafblind person to write a book. Her autobiography, The Story of My Life, was the first of 14 books she wrote in her lifetime. In 1924, Helen Keller began her lifelong association with the American Foundation for the Blind. She worked tirelessly for the rights of people who are blind to have full access to education, employment, and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

Helen Keller, facing for paving the way for blind-deaf people
Helen Keller
Helen Keller

Harriet Tubman – Born Araminta Ross, Harriet was an African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and Union spy during the American Civil War. She was born a slave in Maryland’s Dorchester County around the year 1820. At age thirteen, she was sent to work in the fields. One day, an angry overseer picked up and threw a two-pound weight at a field hand. It fell short, striking Harriet on the head. She never fully recovered from the injury, which caused her to have vision impairment and seizures for the rest of her life.


Harriet is most famous for her “Underground Railroad,” a network composed of free and enslaved abolitionists, and other activists through which she escorted over 300 slaves to freedom. Harriet earned the nickname “Moses” after the prophet Moses in the Bible who led his people to freedom.

Harriet Tubman, a visually impaired abolitionist and humanitarian
Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman

Visually Impaired Women In Sports

Marla Runyan – If you Google “female blind athlete”, Marla is one of the first people to pop up in your search. In 2000, Marla Runyan, an American track and field athlete, road runner and marathon runner, captured the world’s attention when she became the first legally blind American track & field athlete to qualify and compete for the United States Olympic Team. Marla developed Stargardt’s Disease, a form of macular degeneration, at the age of 9, which left her legally blind. Despite the impact Stargardt’s Disease left on her, she did retain her peripheral vision over time.


In 2002, Marla finished as the top American at the 2002 New York City Marathon with a time of 2 hours, 27 minutes and 10 seconds, the second-fastest debut time ever by an American woman. She is a three-time national champion in the women’s 5,000 meters and a 5-time Paralympic Gold Medalist. To date, Marla remains the only visually impaired U.S. athlete to qualify and compete in both the Paralympic and Olympic Games. Wow!

Marla Runyan of Team USA

Trischa Zorn – Trischa Zorn, a paralympic blind swimmer, has been blind since birth after being born without irises. She has won 55 medals at the Paralympic Games, and is the most decorated Paralympian of all time! A member of Team USA, she competed in 7 Paralympic Games winning 41 gold, 9 silver, and 5 bronze medals – a total of 55 medals altogether. Trischa also broke 8 world records at the Games and in 2012 was inducted into the Paralympic Hall of Fame.

Trischa Zorn

Visually Impaired Female Celebrities

Judith Dench – Academy Award winner Dame Judith Dench is known for her regal performances, from Queen Victoria in the movie “Mrs. Brown” to M, the head of Britain’s MI6, in seven James Bond films. She’s won an Oscar for her role as Queen Elizabeth in ‘Shakespeare in Love.’ In 2012, she announced that she has age-related macular degeneration – but intends to keep working. When studying her lines for a new film, she simply asks for the script in a larger font.

Dame Judith Dench

Mary Cassatt – Symbol of impressionism, Mary Cassatt is a famous blind painter who lived between 1844-1926. She was born in Pennsylvania but mostly lived in France. Since women were not allowed to study in the art schools in France, she found private painters to help improve her painting skill. She was also diagnosed with a cataract which caused her to start losing her sight. She became a legacy for women who want to be an artist, and also one of the three great impressionism ladies (Les Trois Grandes Dames).

mary cassatt

Terri Gibbs – Academy of Country Music’s best new female vocalist winner, Terri Gibbs, holds many awards and honors. She was born prematurely and lost her eyesight due to an incubator accident. Terri learned to play guitar at age three and also was taking a part in the church choir. She released her first single, “Somebody’s Knocking”, in 1981 and the song became a hit during the ’80s. So far, she has 6 albums and many songs which made her the most successful blind woman musician of all time. Still, her songs are listened to by millions. As she believes, being a blind woman did not prevent her to be a singer.

Diane Schuur – Multi-Grammy award-winning pianist Diane Schuur, is an inspiring blind woman with her incredible performances. She was born in 1953 prematurely, and due to complications, she completely lost her vision. She started to play the piano when she was 4 years old with her father. At age 28, Diane released her first album “Pilot of my Destiny,” however, due to poor distribution, the album could not sell as expected. Diane did not give up and continued to play an important role in the jazz music world. She worked and practiced a lot to be the best piano player. In 1998, she was invited to the concert of Ray Charles, who is the most famous blind pianist in the world. She was nominated for Grammy Awards five times and won twice in 1986 and 1987 consecutively. She is still performing amazing piano concerts in the United States, book your ticket.

Visually Impaired Royal Women

Princess Christina of the Netherlands – While her mother, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, was pregnant with her, Christina contracted the German Measles or rubella and as a result, Christina was born nearly blind. With medical treatment and custom eye-glasses, her vision improved to a point that she could attend school and live a relatively normal life.

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After completing her vocal teaching studies in Montreal, Princess Christina taught singing in New York. Her interest in singing and music also led her to record two CDs, which were released in 2001 and 2002. She performed publicly on a few occasions, for example, at the marriage of Prince Bernhard Jr. in 2000 and at the funerals of her parents, Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard, in 2004. She completed a dance therapist training and worked, in a later part of her career, with sound and dance therapy. Princess Christina worked to share her knowledge in the fields of dance/sound therapy and physical contact, with the blind.