TV needs to step up for people with disabilities

The Boston Globe Opinions 1 month ago

New research from the Boston-based Ruderman Family Foundation offers 10 billion reasons why TV and movies should authentically represent characters with disabilities and offer more opportunities to actors who are disabled.

Former first lady Michelle Obama once said, “For so many people, television and movies may be the only way they understand people who aren’t like them.” In recent years the entertainment industry has focused on diversity on the big and small screens. Audiences demanded entertainment that looks like America — showcasing our variety of nationality, race, age, sexual orientation, and gender identity. However, with television’s fall lineup in full swing, what we are not seeing enough of is true representation of disabled individuals. It’s an omission that we, the viewing public, are willing to pay to correct.

New research from the Ruderman Family Foundation shows that viewers want more characters with disabilities on the screen, and for them to be played by artists with disabilities — rather than able-bodied actors. The desire to make this a priority for the entertainment industry is backed by half of US households, which would support accurate portrayals of disabled characters and have a combined $10.4 billion per month in spending power. More than half of respondents indicate they are more likely to watch a TV show that features an actor with a disability cast as a character with that same disability versus a show where a nondisabled actor is cast in that same role – yet 80 percent of roles for disabled characters are portrayed by able-bodied actors.

Content distributors are currently leaving a substantial amount of money on the table by overlooking the disability community. Half of viewers, our research shows, are more likely to watch content distributors where there is a commitment to more accurate portrayals of characters with disabilities, and current subscribers say satisfaction and loyalty would increase. According to our research, advertisers come next as beneficiaries, because those who want authentic representation are younger, tech-savvy, and overspend on entertainment services and products more than other audience demographics.

We continue to meet with studios to get them to focus on this issue and commit to change. This summer, CBS Entertainment was the first to sign the Ruderman Family Foundation Audition Pledge, agreeing to audition actors with disabilities for new productions which are being picked up as a series — and we hope others will follow suit.

Some would argue that pretending to embody different personas is the very nature of acting and point to portrayals by able-bodied actors of people with disabilities that have received high acclaim over the years. This mentality overlooks fundamental stigmas and a stark problem in our entertainment industry. While 20 percent of the US population has a disability, fewer than 2 percent of all television characters do.

In so many ways the Hollywood community has been ahead of the curve, nudging our culture to places of higher acceptance and understanding. As George Clooney remarked when receiving the Oscar for best supporting actor, “We’re the ones who talked about AIDS when it was just being whispered, and we talked about Civil Rights when it wasn’t really popular. We bring up subjects.” This sentiment is equal parts true, heroic, and glaringly incomplete.

Our entertainment industry should not only tell stories about people with disabilities but also cast actors with disabilities to tell those stories themselves. Hollywood should put its money where its mouth is, if for no other reason than the viewing public and consumers of mass entertainment are willing to put our money there too.

Jay Ruderman is president of the Ruderman Family Foundation.

Source link
Read also:
Cleveland › 1 week ago
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Monday awarded a grant to the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority for the creation of a new housing voucher program for people with disabilities and their families.
Forbes › 3 weeks ago
“It never hurts to ask.” People with disabilities know better than most that this isn’t always true, even when our right to ask for help is supported by federal law.
CBS Local › Entertainment › 2 days ago
Peter and Bobby Farrelly are being recognized for pressing Hollywood to do a better job of portraying people with disabilities.
Washington Post › 3 weeks ago
Unions’ interest in keep their members’ good-paying jobs conflicts with the interests of one of society’s most vulnerable populations — people with developmental disabilities and significant mental illnesses.
Mirror Online › Politics › 6 hours ago
Sally-Ann Hart, the Conservative candidate in ultra-marginal Hastings and Rye, sparked uproar with her comments about a 'therapeutic exemption' to the minimum wage to help people with learning disabilities get the fulfilment of work
Evening Standard › Politics › 3 hours ago
A Conservative election candidate was heckled at a hustings event where she said that some people with learning disabilities "don't understand money".
New York Post › 2 months ago
A state of the art new Queens library that took $41 million to build over more than a decade isn’t fully accessible to people with disabilities — and bookworms are outraged. The Hunters Point Library in Long Island City features a three-tiered...
The Hill › Finance › 1 month ago
White House hopeful Pete Buttigieg on Saturday released a multi-pronged plan to remove obstacles that people with disabilities face.
CNN › Politics › 1 month ago
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg released a plan Saturday morning aimed at "systematically dismantling institutions that discriminate against people with disabilities," ahead of a presidential candidate forum on accessibility, inclusion and...
Forbes › 3 weeks ago
Scientists and policymakers just recently started discussing the affects climate change has on people with disabilities. Wy did it take so long and is it too late?
Sign In

Sign in to follow sources and tags you love, and get personalized stories.

Continue with Google