Success Stories Within The IDD Community: Josh Blue

Josh Blue is an American comedian. He lives with cerebral palsy, but instead of letting that hinder him, he uses his disability as fuel for his comedy work.

Early Life:

Josh Blue was born on November 27, 1978, in Cameroon, which is a country in Central Africa. During that time his family was living in Cameroon because his father was a teacher during a mission in Africa. After his family returned from Cameroon, Blue spent his childhood in Saint Paul, Minnesota. For high school, he attended Como Park Senior High School. For college, he attended Evergreen State College where he graduated with a degree in creative writing. This is where he started his career as a comedian. During his college years, he volunteered at a zoo in Senegal, a country in West Africa. The zoo was called Parc de Hahn. One day, for a joke, Blue locked himself in an uninhabited animal exhibit. Throughout the day, he watched as spectators threw bananas and peanuts at him as if he was an animal. 

Career Success:

While attending college at Evergreen State College, Blue started to attend open mic nights for comedy. These were a huge success for him! Every time he went he received large amounts of laughter and applause from the audience. In 2002, Blue won the Comedy Works New Talent Search contest. He has been on Comedy Central’s television series Mind of Mencia on multiple occasions. In 2004, he won first place at the Las Vegas Comedy Festival’s Royal Flush Comedy Competition.

In 2006, Blue hit his big break when he won the reality show on NBC called Last Comic Standing. After this, he was featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. He was the first comedian to perform stand-up on her show. He also appeared on shows like Live with Regis and Kelly and Comics Unleashed. In 2009, Blue acted in a horror movie called Feast III: The Happy Finish. During 2010, he was awarded the 13th best comedian by viewers of Comedy Central’s Stand-up Comedy Showdown. In 2011, he moved up two places and was awarded the 11th best comedian by the watchers of Comedy Central’s Stand-up Comedy Showdown. 

Current Day:

Today, Blue lives in Denver, Colorado with his two kids, Simon and Seika, and his girlfriend. Blue still performs in various comedy clubs around the nation. In fact, this past July, he performed at Comedy Works South in Greenwood Village, Colorado. Be sure to check out our previous success story featuring Isabella Springmuhl Tejada and a similar success story featuring Nick Vujicic!







Success Stories Within The IDD Community: Isabella Springmuhl Tejada

Isabella Springmuhl Tejada is a Guatemalan fashion designer. Living with Down Syndrome has presented her with many obstacles and challenges. But with strength and perseverance, she has overcome them all and built a successful career for herself! She is one of the most well-known fashion designers in Guatemala.

Early Life:

Isabella Springmuhl Tejada was born on February 23, 1997, in Guatemala. Springmuhl, born with Down Syndrome, is the youngest of her three siblings. She enjoyed fashion and designing items from a young age. When she was young, she would spend time making clothes for her dolls. This influence came from her grandmother on her mother’s side, as she is a fashion designer. Springmuhl graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science and Letters, but she wanted to further pursue a career in fashion. She applied to the one university in Guatemala with a career path for fashion design. Springmuhl was rejected because of her Down Syndrome. She was determined to not let this stop her from achieving her dreams. Springmuhl later enrolled in a dressmaking academy where she learned the ins and outs of designing clothes. 

Career Success:

In 2015, Springmuhl was asked to display her work at Guatemala City’s Museum of Indigenous Textiles and Clothing, or Museo Ixchel del Traje Indigena. This event was called “Guatextraordinaria.” Here she sold out of everything she brought. This event was wildly successful and inspired Spingmuhl to create her own brand, called “Down to Xjabelle.” Down is in reference to Down Syndrome and Xjabelle is for her maternal grandmother who got her into fashion. In 2016, Springmuhl was invited to display her work at London Fashion Week. She was the youngest designer at this event. She was also the first person from Guatemala and with Down Syndrome to have their work displayed at London Fashion Week. A few months later, she was invited to display her designs in Rome. Also in 2016, she was named one of the BBC 100 Women

“I wish that every garment I so lovingly work on warms the dreams of other youngsters who have different abilities … we can do it!”

Isabella Springmuhl Tejada

Current Day:

Today, Springmuhl’s designs have been showcased all over the world. In 2017, she spoke at a FORBES forum in San Jose, Costa Rica called “Mujeres Poderosas,” or Powerful Women. Spinngmuhl is a representative of Pepsi’s “Guatemorfosis” campaign, which calls for positive action in Guatemala. She has also presented a TED Talk at Universidad de las Américas Puebla in Cholula, Mexico. Overall, Sprinngmuhl never let rejections or naysayers get in her way of achieving her dreams!

Be sure to check out our previous success story featuring Sophia Warner and a similar success story featuring Collette Divitto!








Success Stories Within The IDD Community: Sophia Warner

Sophia Warner is a British track and field Paralympian. She lives with cerebral palsy and competes in T35 events.

Early Life:

Sophia Warner was born on May 23, 1974, in Dorking, England. Warner was born with cerebral palsy. For college, she attended the University of Leicester in Leicester, England,  where she graduated with a degree in Biomedical Science and Business Studies. She started competing in track and field at the age of 19. She started by going to a sports weekend with her friends. Warner continued with her sport in college.

“I’m really excited to show what disabled women are capable of.

Sophia Warner

Career Success:

Warner made her debut in 1996 at the World Championships. Here she represented Great Britain in the 100-meter race and the 200-meter race. Two years later in 1998 at the World Championships, she raced for Great Britain again in these same races. This time she medaled gold in both. 

In 2011, she participated in the IPC Athletics World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand. Here she medaled silver in the 200-meter race and bronze in the 100-meter race. In 2012, Warner qualified for the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London, England for Great Britain. She qualified to run in the T35 100 meter race, the 200-meter sprint, and the T35-38 women’s relay team. This was the first year that the Paralympic Games included events like these under the T-35 classification. Warner came in fourth for the T-35 200 meter final and the T-35 100-meter final. In the 200 meter event, she set a personal best time of 35.25 seconds. After Warner competed in the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Russia, she announced that she would be retiring from the sport. 

Current Day:

Warner currently lives in Surrey, England with her husband Haydn and her two kids  Lucca and Felix. She still runs and enjoys participating in triathlons. Warner is a representative for The Children’s Trust, which is the UK’s main charity organization for children with brain injury and neuro-disability. In fact, she received treatment from this organization as a child during the 1980s. 

In 2013, Warner founded an agency to optimize opportunities for people with disabilities in sports. The agency is called Sophia Warner Sports Marketing. In 2017, Warner established a charity called Superhero Sports Foundation. The mission of this organization is to “break down barriers to disability sport participation and introduce as many people as possible to the life-changing power of sport.” This organization puts on an event called Superhero Series, which is the United Kingdom’s only sporting event for people with disabilities. This event still runs today. 

Be sure to check out our previous success story featuring Jean Driscoll and a similar success story featuring Jerry Traylor!








Success Stories Within The IDD Community: Jean Driscoll

Jean Driscoll is an American wheelchair racer. She has lived her entire life with spina bifida, but she never let that stop her from achieving great heights! 

Early Life:

Jean Driscoll was born on November 18, 1966, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was diagnosed with spina bifida at birth. During her childhood, Driscoll had issues walking but did not start to use a wheelchair until she was in high school. In fact, when she started to use her wheelchair she was worried about being confined by it and not being able to do things she enjoyed. In high school, it took her friends multiple attempts to convince her to go to a wheelchair soccer practice. But, once she was there she loved it. After this, she started to play many different kinds of wheelchair sports, such as basketball and racing. 

Driscoll got so good at wheelchair sports she went to college to continue her athletic career. She attended the University of Illinois to play wheelchair basketball and run wheelchair track and field. This led to her having a wildly successful Paralympic career.

Career Success:

In 1988, Discroll competed in her first Paralympics in Seoul, South Korea. At the event, she competed in the wheelchair track and field races. Here she medaled bronze in the 200 and 400-meter races, silver in the 4×100 meter relay, and gold in the 4×200 meter relay. In 1989, she beat a competitor Candace Cable in the Lilac Bloomsday 12k in Spokane, Washington. In the same year, she competed in the Chicago Marathon and qualified for the Boston Marathon. She went on to win the 1990 Boston Marathon and set a record time. In fact, she won the next 7 consecutive Boston Marathons. She was the first person to ever do that!

 In 1992, she competed in her second Paralympics in Barcelona, Spain. At this event, she medaled gold in the 4×100 m relay. Her third Paralympics was in 1996 in Atlanta, Georgia, Here she medaled bronze in the 1500 meter race, silver in the 5000-meter race, and gold in the 10,000-meter race and marathon event. Her final Paralympic gold medal was in 2000 in Sydney, Australia. At this event, she medaled bronze in the 5000-meter race, silver in the 1500 meter race, and gold in the marathon event. Her career was very successful and let her travel all over the world!

“Successful people never give up. Disability is a characteristic like hair color; it’s not a defining principle. In wheelchair sports, people thought athletes with disabilities were courageous and inspirational. They never give them credit for simply being competitive.”

Jean Driscoll

Current Day:

In 2012, she was initiated into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. In that same year, The Lincoln Academy of Illinois presented Driscoll with the Order of Lincoln Award, the highest honor given by the State of Illinois. Driscoll is also an advocate for athletes with disabilities. She supports the education of disabled athletes in Ghana, West Africa. She helped to develop the first Paralympic teams in Ghana

Be sure to check out our previous success story featuring Jessica-Jane Applegate and a similar success story featuring Breanna Clark!







Success Stories Within The IDD Community: Jessica-Jane Applegate

Jessica-Jane Applegate is a British Paralympic swimmer. She lives with autism and competes in the S14, SB14, and SM14 classifications of events. Her strokes are freestyle and backstroke.

Early Life:

Jessica-Jane Applegate was born on August 22, 1996, in Great Yarmouth, England. When she was young, she was diagnosed with autism. Her mother put her into swimming lessons as a young child as a way to release her energy. She swam at the Lowestoft and Oulton Broad Swimming Club in Lowestoft, Norfolk, England. For her education, she attended Ormiston Venture Academy in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England. She also swam at school. At age 13, she had set regional records and was offered a spot in a UK sporting talent program. 

 “From the moment I first jumped in the water I knew that I wanted to swim, I felt like I could escape in the water and I could go to a safe place where no one could hurt me. I may not have been very good to start with but having a learning disability has never held me back from achieving my dreams.”

Jessica-Jane Applegate

Career Success:

At the end of 2011, Applegate was told that she had the potential to compete at higher levels. During the Winter Wales open in 2011, Applegate had the second-fastest time in the world for the 50m and the third-fastest time for the Paralympic 200m Freestyle. At the beginning of 2012, she competed in the Berlin Open. She won bronze in the 50m and 100m freestyle. At the 2012 British Swimming Championship, she raced in the 200m freestyle and won gold! This race set a British record and qualified her for the Paralympics.

Her last meet before the Paralympics was the 2012 British International Disability Swimming Championships. At this meet, she won silver in the 50m and 100m freestyle races and took gold in the 200m freestyle. She then went off to compete in the 2012 London Summer Paralympics.  

Her first event at the Paralympics was the 100m backstroke. During this race, she finished third in the finals and set a personal record. Her next race was the 200m freestyle in which she came in first for the finals. In the 200m freestyle, she shaved 2 seconds off her time and won gold! She also set a Paralympic record in this race. In fact, she was the first Brit with an intellectual disability to win gold at the Paralympics!

In 2013, Applegate represented Great Britain at the IPC World Championships in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Here she medaled gold in the 200m freestyle, silver in the 200m medley, and bronze in the 100m freestyle. 

“I know that it isn’t easy for people with a learning disability. Lack of understanding about what a learning disability is means that things that everyone takes for granted are made impossible for people with a learning disability. But I’m proof that if you’ve got the right support, you can do anything and anything is possible.”

Jessica-Jane Applegate

Current Day:

Most recently, Applegate swam from Great Britain in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Paralympics. From 2013 to the current day she has been an ambassador of Mencap, which is a UK charity that helps people with learning disabilities.

Be sure to check out our previous success story featuring Nicolas Hamilton and a similar success story featuring Michael Phelps!