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Disability Still Underrepresented in Media

There’s been a pretty hot discussion happening right now about Hollywood casting actors with disabilities.


20% of Americans have a disability. According to the Ruderman Family Foundation, nearly 2% of the characters on TV have disabilities, but 95% of those roles are played by actors without disabilities. When it comes to discussing diversity in Hollywood, disability tends to be excluded from that narrative. Actors with disabilities are begging Hollywood to give them a chance. ABC has hired performers with disabilities in five of their shows in the past year, while Fox only had one.


Oscar-winning Deaf actor Marlee Matlin found these numbers to be painful and said that audiences want to see authenticity. People with disabilities deserve to be seen.


The film, Wonderstruck, starring Julianne Moore as a Deaf character, sparked controversy and received backlash from the Deaf community. Julianne Moore learned ASL for two months to prepare for the role. Deaf people used the hashtag #DeafTalent to voice their opinions.


Another example of recent backlash is the film Stronger, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, an able-bodied actor who plays a man who lost his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing. People called it gimmicky and emphasized the hashtag, #authenticitymatters.


April Webster, a casting director, is trying to teach professionals how to work with people with disabilities by holding workshops and presentations. She said, “It just becomes a matter of raising the consciousness.”


Jay Ruderman, the founder of The Ruderman Family Foundation, is hopeful and optimistic that a change will come in the upcoming years. What do you think?


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