Because everybody deserves the chance to be seen and heard.
Growing up as a kid with a physical disability, I was very lucky to have had a family who always supported me and pushed me to do anything and everything. My friends never treated me any different, and I grew up like any other kid. Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky as I was.
Like most kids, I watched a lot of TV growing up, lots of Disney favourites, YTV, Nickelodeon shows, and all of those quirky sitcoms. Something that I noticed as I got older, was that there were next to no movies and shows strongly featuring people with disabilities. I soon realized this was not just in television shows, this was everywhere: clothing ads, commercials, fashion runways, were also excluding disability from the picture.
When disabilities were included, the characters all had sob stories revolving around their disability. This could be something that a character faces, sure, but every character with a disability? Current ‘representation’ misses the mark when it comes to educating and teaching people that folks with disabilities are not as different as society makes us out to be. I have never been upset, or held back by my wheelchair, yet many television shows teach me that I have to be.
Representation does so much more than just include people with disabilities. If we saw more characters with disabilities on screen, people without disabilities, even from a young age, will see that kids like me aren’t so different. Maybe they’ll begin to treat us like human beings, something that tends to be lacking at times. Also, authentic representation lets kids with disabilities know that they can lead happy and fulfilling lives, and more importantly feel like they are seen.
Not only does representation matter on screen, it matters off screen. In my life, I have a few goals, one of them is to become an actor. The performing arts have always been my favourite thing. While I’ve done a couple commercials, I also love being on a stage. But an issue that I face is that I have extremely limited opportunities to even audition. I often do not even get considered. This is even more apparent in the fact that the majority of auditions I have been too, have not been accessible.
This is a perfect example of how people with disabilities are used to fill quotas, or play the sad story. We never even have the chance at another role. Signing the agreement would give so many important opportunities to people with disabilities.
Because kids with disabilities can be actors too. I know because I am one.