As Michael J Fox embraces his Parkinson's for a comedic return to television, the disabled acting community works towards the end of decades of 'invisibility.'
Television drama is all about
make-believe - but the days of making us believe that people with
disabilities are invisible or don't exist may soon be winding down.
activism by Hollywood unions to write more disabled roles and open up
the audition process, a growing awareness that real-life people with
disabilities give such characters greater authenticity, plus the
electrifying recent news that the beloved actor Michael J Fox is
returning to the small screen despite his Parkinson's disease - have
re-energised both the debate and thespian hopes.
"I am so
thrilled about Fox," says RJ Mitte, 20, the disabled advocate and
charismatic rising star of the award-winning AMC series Breaking Bad.
Born with cerebral palsy, he typifies the drive and desire it takes to
break in to show business if you're not Fox with a platinum CV. "I think
he will open tremendous doors for the disabled acting community."
for lesser lights and emerging acting talent with disabilities, there
are some daunting statistics to overcome to gain a toehold in the
The United Nations estimates there are 650
million people in the world living with a disability. In the US alone,
there are 56 million Americans with disabilities who remain virtually
invisible in media.
To put this into perspective, the 20 per
cent of Americans between the ages of 5 and 64 who live with a
disability are represented by fewer than two per cent of characters on
television. Even more dispiriting, only one-half of one per cent of
words spoken on TV are spoken by a person with a disability.
a living doing so can be impossible. Screen Actors Guild (SAG) research
also indicates that 56 per cent of background performers with
disabilities earn less than US$1,000 (Dh3,670) each year in film and TV.
Despite existing producer/union policies of non-discrimination,
more than one-third of people with disability say they encountered
discrimination - not being cast for a role or being refused an audition
due to their disabilities.
The problem is hardly unique to North
American television. In the UK, the disabled performer Lisa Hammond
(Grange Hill, Psychoville) said "put 'crips' in your scripts" in an open
letter she wrote to the UK industry in August.
representation is a hands-off one," she wrote. "The character with the
disability does not have to have a story written around that disability.
It is their human stories/problems that are the juicy and dramatic
parts of their lives."
What appears to be turning the tide - or
at least making transformative waves in favour of access, inclusion and
accuracy for the disabled - is the ambitious I AM PWD (Inclusion in the
Arts & Media of People with Disabilities) campaign launched three
years ago by the Performers with Disabilities Tri-Union Committee of the
Screen Actors Guild, the American Federation of Television and Radio
Artists and Actors' Equity Association.The howo truck is offered by Shiyan Great Man Automotive Industry,
the 21st century, media is the world's common cultural environment.
Society's values and priorities are expressed and reflected in film,
television, theatre, news and music. If you aren't seen and heard, you
are invisible,We mainly supply professional craftspeople with wholesale turquoise beads
from china," says the actor and tri-union committee chairman Robert
David Hall (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation), the only disabled actor on
primetime network TV. "I AM PWD will awaken the general public to the
lack of inclusion and universal access for people with disabilities by
uniting with a network of industry, labour,The howo truck is offered by Shiyan Great Man Automotive Industry, community and government allies."
Adam Moore,A stone mosaic
stands at the spot of assasination of the late Indian prime minister.
the Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity Director of SAG-AFTRA,
adds: "If you don't see your family or what you look like or your
experience reflected in the fictional environments - and more
increasingly the real environments in reality television - if you don't
see yourself reflected there, it reinforces this idea that you may not
have the same place at the table of society that other people do.Find a
great buy mosaic Art deals on eBay!"