The One Group Often Omitted From Conversations About Hollywood Inclusion & Diversity

Image credit: Markus Spiske, Used via CC By 2.0

Increased representation for marginalized groups in Hollywood continues to be a vital and ongoing conversation.

Stigmas, ignorance, inaccuracies, prejudices, and stereotypes can either be enforced or debunked by media images.

However, I’ve noticed in many conversations about inclusion one very important group is often omitted:

People with disabilities.

According to a white paper published by the Ruderman Family Foundation, people with disabilities are approximately 20% of the population, yet 95% of television characters with disabilities are portrayed by non-disabled actors.

The study also surveyed 31 shows across broadcast, cable, and streaming platforms. Out of that total only four actors with disabilities were cast, amounting to a meager 2% of all actors involved.

Adding insult to injury, non-disabled actors frequently garner much acclaim and win awards for portraying people living with disability.

Since 1989, 14 of 27 Best Actor Oscar award winners were non-disabled men portraying characters with a disability.

In the entire history of the academy, only one woman with a disability has won the Best Actress Oscar— Marlee Matlin for Children Of A Lesser God.

This staggering inequity combined with the lack of any concerted and vehement outcry proves ableism is a virulent problem in Hollywood.

As consumers, we can help by supporting projects that employ and cast people with disabilities.

For example, the science fiction webseries Interrogation was created by a woman, and features several key characters with disabilities portrayed by actors with disabilities.

Television series such as Ed, Breaking Bad, Glee, and Speechless have cast actors with disabilities.

Still, the onus is on Hollywood to create more opportunities both on and off camera.

This audience has been discriminated against and under-represented for far too long.

Everyone deserves to see themselves reflected onscreen.


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Rod Faulkner is a huge sci-fi/fantasy fan — and the founder of He is also the author of the SF&F short film guide 200 Best Online Sci-Fi Short Films.