07 Nov Disability Portrayals On TV At Record HighNovember 7, 2016
By: Michelle Diament
The number of characters with disabilities on prime-time television is on the rise, with a new report finding such representation nearly doubled since last year.
Among series regulars appearing this season on scripted prime-time programs on ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox and NBC, 15 are expected to have disabilities.
By contrast, there were just eight portrayals of disability on network shows last season.
The findings come from an analysis released this month by GLAAD, a media advocacy organization for the gay and lesbian community. The annual report assesses representation of minority groups on television — including people with disabilities.
For the 2016-2017 season, the report found that characters with disabilities account for 1.7 percent of all series regulars on network shows, the highest percentage recorded since GLAAD started tracking disability representation on TV in 2010.
There are five characters with disabilities appearing on Fox shows, four on NBC, three on ABC, two on CBS and one on The CW, the report found.
GLAAD included any condition that would qualify under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“As noteworthy as these numbers are, in comparison with previous tracked seasons, they lack far behind the actual representation of people with disabilities found in our communities nationwide,” Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of the nonprofit RespectAbility, said in the report. “The only way to create authenticity within entertainment television is if characters with obvious and hidden disabilities are included within every script and storyline, just as they are found within the diversity of our everyday lived experience.”
Network shows expected to feature disability portrayals include “Empire,” “24: Legacy” and “Rosewood” on Fox; “Superstore,” “Taken,” “Trial & Error” and “This is Us” on NBC; “Grey’s Anatomy,” “How to Get Away with Murder” and “Speechless” on ABC; “NCIS: New Orleans” and “Scorpion” on CBS and The CW’s “The 100.”
Meanwhile, on cable, Freeform’s “Switched at Birth” and “Pretty Little Liars” and Showtime’s “Shameless” will include representations of disability, the report said. Streaming series include Amazon’s “One Mississippi” and “Transparent” and Netflix’s “Wentworth” and “DreamWorks’ Dragons.”