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The Shoprider Hall of Fame: Historical Biographies – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Covid-19’ has become a dominant part of our vocabulary.  While we may be living in unprecedented ‘historical times’, we join a long line of people from the past, who lived their lives as historical events were unfolding around them. This is an opportunity to enter the Shoprider ‘Hall of Fame’ and walk among the lives of historical figures, particularly those who lived with a disability during momentous times. As all eyes are on the current presidents of the world, we think it is fitting to cast our glance back to the 32nd president of the United States: Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR).

The memory of Roosevelt’s life is not of him confined to a wheelchair. In fact, people often forget that he was disabled. In this Shoprider bio, we are interested in his public life that has made him well renowned, as well as his everyday life with a disability.

It is always important to recognize that an individual’s experience of mobility impairment is as unique as they are, which is why Shoprider South Africa sheds the light on varying historical figures like Roosevelt and Frida Kahlo: a reminder that life is lived in beautiful shades of colourful complexity. So, let’s take a journey into the past…


Portrait of a Man of History

Born in 1882, Roosevelt is remembered as one of the most noteworthy presidents of American history, leading his country through the tumultuous years of the Great Depression and World War II – two of the most significant and world-altering eras of the 20th Century.

He married Eleanor Roosevelt and together, they had six children, only five of whom survived. 

He joined the New York State Senate in 1910 and served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy during World War I. In 1921, Roosevelt fell severely ill, interrupting his political campaigns and leaving him permanently paralyzed. However, by 1928, he re-entered public life and was elected as the New York Governor.


After the Wall Steet Crash of 1929, FDR was elected as U.S. president in 1933 and set about implementing recovery programmes to target the severe economic crisis that resulted from the Great Depression. 

Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour during World War II resulted in FDR leading America into the war, where he worked closely with other Allied leaders, including Britain’s Winston Churchill, and oversaw the creation of the world’s first atomic bomb.

A year before his death in 1945, he was re-elected, making him the only American president to win four elections.

These are the well-known details of his public life, but the hidden details of his life are equally noteworthy to Shoprider South Africa.


Portrait of a Man of Privacy

The onset of Roosevelt’s illness in 1921 put an abrupt end – for the time – to his political campaigns. 

His illness - thought to be polio at the time - left Roosevelt permanently paralyzed from his waist down. He left the public eye for some years as he went into recovery – those quiet, unseen, but important years that Shoprider and many of our clients know well!

To keep his disability out of the public eye, FDR found ways and techniques to disguise his disability - teaching himself how to walk for short distances with the use of a cane, and leaning on someone for support. When he became president, all photos of him in a wheelchair were suppressed and during his speeches, he would grip the podium and overextend his hips from his joints in order to hide his inability to walk. By the time he died, most people did not know that he was paralyzed!

(Image Sourced from Wikipedia)


Shoprider South Africa’s customers may wonder why he chose to hide his paralysis. Was he ashamed, or did he develop the strength and courage to do what he needed to do for the time in which he lived? FDR thought his disability would be considered a weakness and would ultimately hinder him from getting ahead in the political race.

Despite hiding his disability, Roosevelt built a Rehabilitation Centre for Polio and founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, which ultimately led to the development of the Polio Vaccine.

Whether we disagree with his policies or his life decisions, Roosevelt certainly was a man who possessed intense determination and political vigour! Disadvantage and discrimination are a reality that people with disabilities have faced throughout history. FDR chose to write his own story – one that defied prejudice and celebrated his strength. 

At Shoprider, we are committed to working towards a world that makes way for those who are mobility impaired – both in access to physical spaces and in life.


So, what is your story?


Shoprider South Africa is here for the ride – enhancing the lives of our customers by offering a wide range of portable scooters, full-size scooters, electric wheelchairs, manual wheelchairs, pre-owned wheelchairs and scooters, as well as vehicle accessories and wheelchair ramps.

Get in contact with Shoprider South Africa today!

 P.S. We are still open during lockdown!

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