Media Representation: Characters with Disabilities & Mobility Equipment
Although people with disabilities make up the nation’s largest minority, the number of television characters with a disability amounts to less than one percent of casts across popular networks. This figure, it seems, is finally on the rise. The fall season will premiere with a number of primetime shows welcoming back or introducing characters with one or more disabilities, a move to change the status of this traditionally underrepresented group. Appropriate media representation of people with disabilities not only more accurately mirrors the make up of our modern society, but also gives insight into the lives of those living with these conditions and their ability to work, raise a family and live their lives as able bodied people do.
The fall will see the return of Max Braverman, a child with Asperger’s syndrome, to NBC’s “Parenthood,” as well as the premiere of “Ironside,” a drama following a detective who uses a wheelchair and wheelchair accessible vehicles. Although the casting of actors without disabilities in these roles has lead to some controversy, there are a number of great examples of characters played by individuals living with disabilities on the air. RJ Mitte, who plays Walt Jr. on AMC’s Breaking Bad, portrays a characterwith Cerebral Palsy, a condition he also lives with, while Katie Leclerc, an actress with Ménière’s disease, plays a deaf young adult on ABC Family’s “Switched at Birth.” Michael J. Fox, an actor who has publicly discussed his struggle with Parkinson’s disease, will also return to television on“The Michael J. Fox Show,” in which he will play a news anchor with the condition.
Although there is a lot more to be done to better represent people with disabilities and mobility equipment in today’s media, it looks like work is actively being done to correct previous inaccuracies. The characters in these programs are not summed up by their disabilities, but rather provide a glimpse into their daily lives, breaking stereotypes and previously assumed limitations.
The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) is an advocate for mobility and accessibility for drivers with disabilities. If you need help with converting or buying a handicap accessible car, truck or van, please consider one of our mobility equipment dealers.