by Chelo Grubb
We believe that it is absolutely unacceptable to have 95% of characters with disabilities played by actors without disabilities. It is a matter of social justice to have a large segment of our population authentically represented in the mass entertainment that is television and scripted, dramatized stories. It is necessary to create an environment where actors with disabilities have access to play characters with disabilities. It is also necessary to reduce stigma surrounding “invisible” disabilities such as addiction and mental illness. Only by having actors who are open about those disabilities will we slowly create a society that doesn’t shun or shame a vast segment of its population. We have to tell stories about people with a variety of disabilities and we have to be fair in representing them accurately. Only then will we have more realistic stories that reflect our society.
We will not choose a number and say that this is how many characters with disabilities need to be played by actors with disabilities. But we are saying that it’s about time we start ensuring that it’s more than 5%.
It is argued that when it comes to people with disabilities, television representation is imperative for stigma reduction. Due to factors such as frequent inaccessibility of public places, abysmally low employment of people with disabilities, and segregation in education, mainstream culture often doesn’t have the chance to organically encounter and interact with people with disabilities. So almost by default, most attitudes toward people with disabilities arise from the stories we encounter around us—stories which are woefully underrepresented in the most widely consumed medium: television.Read the full report here.