I can’t wait to see the pilot episode of the ABC sitcom Speechless September 21 because it promises viewers a character that is anything but silent. Mini Driver plays a mom who is vocal in her role as advocate for her son, a high school student with cerebral palsy who is unable to speak.
The show looks promising in terms of presenting a character with a disability in a prominent role (and casting an actor with a disability to play the character), and it is an understatement to say that such representations are much needed.
Read Neil Genzlinger’s personal reflection in The New York Times for more context on the series and families that include disabled children.
While you are thinking about this issue, some data from the University of Southern California provides statistics on inequality in portrayals of gender, race/ethnicity, LGBT, and disability.
According to latest report from the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, only 2.4% of characters shown in film have a disability. This figure is drawn from 800 popular films from 2007-2015 that were analyzed in the study. Check the report for other illuminating findings on inequality in the entertainment industry.
Years of viewing suggests that the numbers for television are not much better, but maybe that is about to change.