Cerebral Palsy in the Spotlight

Zach Anner
Zach Anner

Oprah Winfrey is famous for her many accomplishments: her talk show, status as one of the richest women in the world, philanthropic generosity and her prowess as a  business woman. She is also known for her belief in her fellow man, and that no one, no matter their perceived shortcomings, should be discounted or robbed of the opportunity to succeed. This belief shone through this past week when she named two winners of “Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star.” One of them was a young man named Zach Anner. Anner has cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy is a condition, sometimes thought of as a group of disorders that can involve brain and nervous system functions such as movement, learning, hearing, seeing and thinking. There are several different types of cerebral palsy including: spastic, dyskinetic, ataxic, hypotonic and mixed.

Anner, a Texas filmaker, gained celebrity on the Internet with his audition tape for the show. His vision was to create a travel show which would give those who never thought they would have the opportunity to travel the chance to do so. Anner is not hindered by his disability. He remains ambitious and optimistic. Working tirelessly to compete in this competition paid off when he won 9 million votes from viewers and a top 10 spot on the show. In the end, Zach was given the opportunity to produce “Rolling Around the World with Zach Anner.”

Disability Scoop, the premier source for developmental disability news, sat down with Zach to interview him about his victory, goals for his show and his life with a disability. Zach made it clear that he is aware of the limitations of his disability, but he refuses to let them stop him from obtaining his dreams, “Obviously my speech is somewhat affected, my movement is, but it’s something that I’ve learned to embrace and make it reflect my personality rather than trying to hide it. When people think of me, I want them to think of a travel show host who’s really funny and good at his job and I think eventually the CP won’t even play into it, or at least that’s the goal.”

When Oprah expressed concern about Zach’s ability to maintain his stamina throughout the competition, Zach persisted and proved that he is as capable as anyone else. He wants people with disabilities to have the same confidence. “The key is to never let your disability define you in any way. It’s something that you deal with every day, but find out who you are beneath all the difficult stuff. Then, facing those physical challenges will become so much easier. I know that a lot of people watching have really related to what I’m doing and my message to them is that anybody can do this. It’s just a matter of having faith in yourself and knowing that anything is possible.”

Zach is an inspiration to all young people chasing their dreams. There is never a reason to doubt someone’s capabilities despite what society might consider being their shortcomings. Zach is extremely hardworking and talented and has a bright future in the spotlight.

To read the complete interview with Zach from Disability Scoop, click here!