Joni Eareckson Tada (born October 15, 1949) is an evangelical Christian, author, radio host, and founder of Joni and Friends, an organization "accelerating Christian ministry in the disability community."
As a teenager, Tada enjoyed riding horses, hiking, tennis, and swimming. On July 30, 1967, she dove into Chesapeake Bay after misjudging the shallowness of the water. She suffered a fracture between the fourth and fifth cervical levels and became a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down.
During her two years of rehabilitation, according to her autobiography, she experienced anger, depression, suicidal thoughts, and religious doubts. However, Tada learned to paint with a brush between her teeth, and began selling her artwork. To date, she has written over forty books, recorded several musical albums, starred in an autobiographical movie of her life, and is an advocate for disabled people.
Tada wrote of her experiences in her 1976 international best-selling autobiography, Joni: The unforgettable story of a young woman's struggle against quadriplegia & depression, which has been distributed in many languages. The book was made into a 1979 feature film of the same name, starring herself. Her second book, A Step Further, was released in 1978.
She married Ken Tada in 1982. They live in Calabasas, California. In 2010, she announced that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She emerged successfully from cancer surgery and is hopeful of a positive prognosis.
Tada founded Joni and Friends (JAF) in 1979, an organization for Christian ministry in the disabled community throughout the world. In 2006 the Joni and Friends International Disability Centre in Agoura California was established.
Led by Tada and Doug Mazza, the Joni and Friends International Disability Center has four programs. Joni and Friends, a daily five-minute radio program, heard in over 1,000 broadcast outlets. In 2002 it received the “Radio Program of the Year” award from National Religious Broadcasters. The Wounded Warrior program offers family retreats. Wheels for the World collects wheelchairs, which are refurbished by prison inmates and donated to people in developing nations where, physical therapists fit each chair to a needy disabled child or adult.
In November 2009, Tada signed an ecumenical statement known as the Manhattan Declaration calling on evangelicals, Catholics and Orthodox Christians to work towards changing laws which permit abortion, and other matters that go against their religious consciences.
Tada has received The American Academy of Achievement's Golden Plate Award; The Courage Award from the Courage Rehabilitation Center; The Award of Excellence from the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center; The Victory Award from the National Rehabilitation Hospital; The Golden Word Award from the International Bible Society. She is inducted into the Christian Booksellers Association's Hall of Honor. In 2002, Tada received the William Ward Ayer Award for excellence from the National Religious Broadcasters’ Association. In 2003 she was given the Gold Medallion Award for her book When God Weeps. In 2004 she was awarded the Gold Medallion Award for co-authoring Hymns for a Kid’s Heart, Volume 1.
Tada was given the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003 by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. She was also named "Churchwoman of the Year" in 1993 by the Religious Heritage Foundation and was the first woman to be honored by the National Association of Evangelicals as their "Layperson of the Year." In 2009, Tada was inducted into Indiana Wesleyan University'sSociety of World Changers.
Tada is the author of over 48 books on the subjects of disability and Christianity. Several of them have been children's books, including Tell Me The Promises, which received the Evangelical Publishers’ Association’s Gold Medallion and Silver Medal in the 1997 C.S. Lewis Awards, and Tell Me The Truth, which received the EPCA Gold Medallion in 1998.
The life story of Tada was used by Czechcomposer Ivan Kurz in his opera Večerní shromáždění ketho (Evening Divine service).
Tada received media attention in 2014 for her performance of the title song from the Christian film Alone Yet Not Alone. While the song's writers initially received an Academy Award nomination for Best Song, the nomination was later revoked for what the Academy deemed improper campaigning by the composer, Bruce Broughton. Some controversy followed this decision, and subsequent media attention helped the song's official YouTube video, featuring Tada, surpass one million views.