Representation in Media
“Representation of persons with disabilities has gotten better over the years, but a lot of work still needs to be done for people with disabilities to be treated as equals. Most of the time when people with disabilities are represented in movies/TV shows, it is because society wants to be inclusive or diverse. Furthermore, up until recently ([e.g.], TV show Ordinary Joe), I had never seen people with my level of physical disability represented in movies/shows. I feel that people with disabilities are not included for their real abilities or talents. Society must actively recruit more persons with disabilities for roles in movies/TV shows, so persons with disabilities can truly be included in society.” – Sarah C
“In my experience of the shows, movies, or stories I have seen, most of the time people with disabilities are portrayed as a tragic villain or someone that suffered a tragic accident who thinks that having a disability is the end of the world. I personally would like stories where the characters can live a fulfilling life.” – Kristopher S
Language isn’t the only thing we need to think about when representing people with disabilities. Another critical aspect is making sure that the one in five people who live with a disability are equally represented in movies, TV, advertising, books, and online.
Just like every other community, people with disabilities deserve to see themselves accurately and proportionally represented in culture. Our community told us this is one area where we all have a lot of work to do. No one in our community strongly agreed that they were well represented in TV and movies, books, or advertising. In fact, the majority strongly disagreed with all these statements. They felt slightly better represented online, but even in this case the majority somewhat disagreed that they are well represented.
People with disabilities in Fable’s community feel they should be represented a lot more than they currently are. Further, when they are represented, they want to be shown as ordinary people first rather than being defined entirely by disability. Currently, people also strongly feel that existing representations overplay disability for inspiration or drama, and that those existing representations are highly inaccurate.
“I think Fetty Wap represents my disability in a positive way but it doesn’t seem like it’s intentional on his part. The fact that he presents himself without an eye prosthetic makes it obvious that he’s visually impaired. I don’t know why he chooses to not wear a prosthetic or if there’s a medical reason. Regardless, it gets people talking about his eye issues and therefore leads to conversation about vision impairment in general.” – Amy K H
The examples given where people with disabilities felt best represented all involved occasions where people with disabilities got to represent themselves. People felt better represented online, thanks to popular disability influencers on websites like YouTube and TikTok, and felt best represented by musicians and actors who themselves were people with a disability. This highlights the idea that people with disabilities need to be involved in all aspects of culture, digital or otherwise.