PERFORMERS WITH DISABILITIES
There arenít very many roles that call for a disabled character.
There are actually quite a few, but non-disabled actors usually play
them. The following films, most
playing in major film theaters within the same year, featured at least one lead
character with a disability: Scent
of a Woman, Bennie and Joon, Waterdance, Passion Fish, Proof,
The Piano, My Left Foot, Gump, and Smoke.
Non-disabled actors filled ALL of these roles.
The disability has to be a major part of the plot if it is shown;
otherwise the audience gets confused and keeps wondering why the character is
This is the same excuse used for years to exclude actors of color, but it
has been shown that audience members are adaptable and intelligent.
Now that disabled people are seen in every day life, it is not unusual to
see a character whose disability is part of their description, but isnít
necessarily a plot point.
Disabled people should not be used in commercials because it looks
insulting or as if the advertisers are making fun of the disability.
Advertisers are finally starting to recognize that disabled people have
money to spend. Even those who are
on public benefits have to buy food, clothes, phone services, banking services,
etc. When a Deaf mother sees a Deaf
actress in a commercial for baby diapers, itís not hard to guess which brand
she will buy next time she goes to the store.
Levis, AT&T, and Bank of American are just a few of the companies
that have realized that with over 38 million disabled consumers in our country,
it pays to use disabled talent in ad campaigns.
Acting is strenuous; disabled people are fragile and donít have the
Some disabled people have more stamina than most non-disabled people!
Others might not be able to handle long, hard hours; however, they are
realistic about what they can or canít do and would not audition for or commit
to a job beyond their ability any more than a non-disabled actor would.
People (audiences) donít want to see disabled people and be reminded of
their own vulnerability; it makes them uncomfortable.
Many people who ďpassĒ as non-disabled have been appreciative of and
have related to characters who have some of their own physical limitations such
as Carpal Tunnel, mastectomy, back problems and hearing loss as a result of
aging. The more people see disabled
characters that continue living full lives, the more people realize that their
own mortality is nothing to be afraid of or to close their eyes to.
(Fill in a myth you are aware of)
(Fill in the reality)
© Pamela Walker, Talent Bridge
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