by Aveline MacQuoid on March 18, 2022

in Extras

How American Cinema And Theater
Are Campaigning For Disability Inclusion

One in four adults in the US lives with a disability; yet, they are underrepresented in the performing arts, according to a Harvard Political Review article. Studies have shown that entertainment has the power to shape people’s perceptions of others. With this in mind, US cinema and theater have been making efforts to improve disability inclusion. Film and theater have made great strides in representing people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and women. It is about time that cinema and stage depict people living with disabilities appropriately.

Hollywood TV Shows And Movies

Disability inclusion has been increasing on TV shows. One example is RJ Mitte, who played a character with cerebral palsy on Breaking Bad. He is actually living with cerebral palsy, which was caused by oxygen deprivation when he was born. This is one factor that can lead to cerebral palsy and a cerebral palsy quiz can help parents decide if they need to see a diagnostician. Another example is Peter Dinklage. He was born with a form of dwarfism and he portrayed Tyrion Lannister, a little person, in Game of Thrones.

RespectAbility, the Center for Cultural Power’s Disruptors Fellowship, and the Disability Features of Ford and Mellon are three of Hollywood initiatives that are advocating for disability inclusion, says a Noho Arts District article. RespectAbility is a foundation that offers workshops, networking opportunities, and mentorship to film professionals with disabilities. Some of these professionals have built careers with Paramount, Disney, and Netflix. The CCP Disruptors Fellowship allows the voices of people with disabilities to be heard through films and the theater, while Ford and Mellon provided $50,000 grants to filmmakers with disabilities. It is the hope of these initiatives that disability inclusion will further increase in American Cinema.

Stage Performances

American theater has ways to go, compared to TV and movies, which is why Yale Repertory Theatre and David Geffen School of Drama have committed to inclusion, equity, and diversity. Yale Rep says on their website that they provide training, workshops, and symposia related to disability inclusion in the theater. There are theater companies that created an environment that nurtures the inclusion of people with disabilities on stage and backstage. Phamaly Theatre Company, formerly PHAMALy (Physically Handicapped Amateur Musical Actors League), has been staging theatrical presentations where people with disabilities take the spotlight since 1990. More recently, the founding of the National Disability Theatre (NDT) and Theater Breaking Through Barriers (TBTB) provide venues where artists with disabilities can practice their passion.

Why Inclusion Is Important

Disability inclusion in film, television, and stage matters because these will pave the way to enlighten abled people. They are tools of education that create awareness, leading to a better understanding of differently-abled people. As support for TV shows, movies, and plays that are disability-inclusive grow, opportunities for artists with disabilities will also increase. Performing arts professionals living with disabilities who engage in any type of medium sends a message of hope and change to the rest of the world.

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