A New Study Says 95 Percent of Actors Playing Disabled Characters in TV’s Top 10 Shows Are Able-Bodied

Photo: FOX

A new study has come out that demonstrates the paltry state of disability representation on TV. Variety reported the findings of a study by Ruderman White Paper, and they show that as slim as the presence of disabled characters on TV is, the presence of disabled actors playing those characters is slimmer still. The report, the work of Seinfeld’s Danny Woodburn and the Ruderman Family Foundation’s advocacy-content specialist Kristina Kopić, explains that while close to 20 percent of the U.S. population qualifies as disabled, actors across 31 TV programs who have disabilities amounted to a mere four people, or 2 percent of the total. Moreover, of the characters presented with disabilities in the top ten series of the 2015-2016 season, the study found that a whopping 95 percent were played by able-bodied actors. While individuals with disabilities often go unmentioned as one of the minority groups in need of better representation across entertainment mediums (itself a symptom of the neglect), the study comes not long after the controversial release of Me Before You, a movie criticized for its portrayal of a quadriplegic character played by Sam Claflin, himself able-bodied.

TV Has Very Few Disabled Actors, Study Says