Disability Representation: The DisRep Test

Marina Carlos
Mar 22 · 2 min read

Inspired by the Bechdel-Wallace Test and the Kent Test, the DisRep Test was created to point out the authenticity and diversity of disability portrayal in movies and TV shows.

Disabled people, despite representing 18,7% of the US population, are still an underrepresented minority in media. Furthermore, when disabled characters do exist, they tend to be portrayed by abled-bodied actors and represent a very narrow portion of the disability community.

The DisRep Test analyzes a film or a TV show along the following lines:

a) At least one disabled character
b) who isn’t a white, straight cisgender man
c) who is portrayed by a disabled person
d) whose storyline doesn’t revolve around their disability
e) who isn’t there for inspiration porn or misery purposes

Indeed, the 2018 Annenberg Inclusion Initiative report states that in 2017:

. Only 2.5% of all speaking characters were depicted with a disability across the 100 most popular movies of that year.
. 69.6% of characters with disabilities were male while 30.4% were female.
. Nearly three-quarters of characters with disabilities were white, while 27% were underrepresented.
. Only 1 film revolved around a leading character from the LGBT community.

These facts highlight the lack of inclusion of disabled people on-screen and the lack of diversity in those representations and the need to be far more diverse: from a character’s gender, race, sexual orientation and class to a character’s disability itself (physical disability, invisible disability…).

Millicent Simmonds playing Regan in A Quiet Place.

To learn more about disability representation, make sure to check on Twitter #DisTheOscars created by Imani Barbarin and #FilmDis created by Dominick Evans!

Marina Carlos

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Writes mostly about #disability. Stories will be published in English or French.