The blog this week was written by Michele Momotiuk, Administrative Assistant at The Arcadia Institute and finishes our series commenting on recent news stories. This season NBC has two shows that feature characters with physical disabilities. “Ironside” stars Blair Underwood who acts as character in a wheelchair and “The Michael J. Fox Show” which stars Michael J. Fox who has Parkinson’s as does his character. Other shows that have characters with disabilities include a character with Asperger’s NBC’s “Parenthood,” actors and characters on Fox’s “Glee,” and characters with prosthetic legs on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and CBS’s “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” among others. While it is refreshing to see more characters that begin to reflect the diversity found in our society, it can also be frustrating to see how far we have to go to fully include people with disabilities.
In the news recently, there was some controversy over not casting a person with a disability in the lead role of “Ironside.” “Sons of Anarchy” star Kurt Yaeger, an actor who lost his left leg after a motorcycle accident said, “This would be like being in the ‘50s and having a white guy do blackface, at this point. You need to start having disabled people playing disabled characters. Period.” According to the article, NBC declined to comment on the casting and whether any disabled actors auditioned for the role. (From The Wrap, http://www.thewrap.com/tv/article/hollywoods-disabled-react-ironside-casting-all-we-want-chance-91886)
At The Arcadia Institute and in the Connect Kalamazoo network we realize that it is a journey to inclusion and we all need to stay on that journey to fully include people with disabilities in our community or in this case on television. It’s ok to not have all the answers and to ask questions. Reading this story inspires me to think about where the organizations in which I am involved are on the journey to inclusion. What can I do to create a community that is welcoming, supportive and respectful of people with disabilities?