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Television characters with disabilities double this year

It may seem an odd way to measure tolerance, but who appears on television shows is an important reflection of American society. Television has suffered for years from portraying very few types of characters; most characters were white, able-bodied and heterosexual. As any avid television watcher in Atlanta can tell you, however, those characters are slowly being replaced by a much more diverse group.

One group of characters to emerge are those with disabilities. Last year, there were only four characters with disabilities on broadcast television, but that number has since doubled. There are now eight actors playing characters with disabilities, although these eight are only 1 percent of all characters on television.

Since many people in Georgia hear the term "disability" and think of someone who is completely reliant on others, television shows that portray people with physical and cognitive disabilities or people living with various mental health conditions helps to show the wide variety of abilities within the disability community.

Though there has been an increase in the number of characters with disabilities there are concerns about the number of able-bodied actors playing characters with disabilities. It is relatively rare, at least on broadcast television, for a character with a disability to actually be played by a person with a disability. There have been more actors with disabilities finding work on cable television programs.

As characters with disabilities find themselves on Georgians' televisions more often, there is hope that people will become more attuned to some of the nuances of the disability community. From accessible buildings to Social Security disability benefits, more people will hopefully be able to better understand their neighbors and friends with disabilities.

Source:, “TV Characters With Disabilities On The Rise, Shaun Heasley, Oct. 14, 2013

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