ANSWERS: 1
  • That is one of those questions that does not really have a good answer. It is as much related to an 'out of sight, out of mind' mindset as much as anything else. To begin with, there are very few disabled actors. This is not a bias on the part of the entertainment industry, but a side-effect of the business. Actors must play many roles throughout their careers, requiring a range of physical and mental abilities. There are only so many character roles available for persons with disabilities. An actor who is mobility-impaired, for example, is at a disadvantage in this scenario, because if he or she cannot walk properly, it severely limits the number of roles they can play. People who want a career in the performing arts have to take work whenever and wherever it is available. There are not enough roles for a mobility-impaired performer to make a living from full time, let alone enough performers to achieve a modest level of visibility in the profession. Thousands of acting positions open each year in North America, but only a handful of these portray persons with disabilities. No jobs, no income. A person with a speech impediment (an audible disability) would have a difficult time earning a living in film or on stage. There are a limited number of storylines that could be built around persons with disabilities and still produce financial success for the producers. Dramas, certainly. Comedies, much less so, unless it is of the cruel type that pokes fun at the disabled. Hollywood productions focus on the upbeat, rather than the downbeat, to grab enough of an audience to produce a handsome return for the investment. There is more potential for such roles from smaller independent production houses, but there are also fewer jobs and less money available for salaries. If you stand on a street-corner in a city and observe the stream of humanity walking by, how many disabled persons do you see? Few of those walking by have visible disabilities. There are many who have disabilities that are not visible, but these would also be invisible in a role in a film or in theatre. Out of sight, out of mind. I recall a film, perhaps 30 years ago, that had as a main character a person with a mental disability. The role was played by a person with the same condition. It gave the role a certain authenticity, but it was a great deal of work for the person performing the part. How many production teams would provide the additional support a disabled person could require, in higher costs, additional support personnel, or increased production time? As with all those who are considered underrepresented or poorly represented in films, on stage, and on television, equality will only come when a person is hired for his or her ability to portray a character. When a disabled person is hired to play a role, instead of a role for a disabled person, then equality will have been reached. This is true for the disabled, aboriginals, blacks, asians, and any other such group.

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