If you ask someone who has a disability about their impairment, they might respond that a disability is what someone has, not who someone is. It is one part of a whole life, but those without a disability don’t often get the chance to understand what life is like for these individuals or why they may need long-term Social Security disability assistance.
Television is one way for people to “step into someone else’s shoes” so-to-speak. While there are certainly a number of liberties taken, factors exaggerated and other “unrealities” depending on the show, more producers are exploring the lives of those with disabilities.
The show “Parenthood” takes a look at the intellectual impairment Asperger’s syndrome, and how it affects the daily life of teen Max Braverman and his family. The show “Glee” takes a look at physical impairments through the character Artie Abrams, a paraplegic who uses a manual wheelchair. Michael J. Fox stars in his own show as a man who deals with the reality of Parkinson’s disease.
What is unique about our last example is that Michael J. Fox may be playing a character, but his Parkinson’s is real. This is rare in broadcast television. In most cases, a non-disability actor plays a character with one or more impairments. A recent report published by the media advocacy group GLAAD detailed this phenomenon.
Although the report noted that characters with disabilities are being written into more plot lines, “representation on prime-time broadcast television continues to not accurately reflect the diverse American population.”
The percentage of people with a disability in the general population is much higher than television shows would make it seem, but it’s a start in creating broadcast television that more accurately reflects the diversity in Newark and across the world.
Source: Disability Scoop, “TV Characters With Disabilities On The Rise,” Shaun Heasley, Oct. 14, 2013