Disability-focused movies are nothing new, but where are the actors with disabilities?

Two Movie Tickets In Front Of A Take Clapperboard And A Reel Of Movie Film

I lost my sight when I was 26 years old. After that, I pretty much quit going to movies.

I can still picture movies I saw on TV or at movie theaters before then, though, and it surprises me now to think how many of them happen to center on disabilities. Some examples:

  • In Coming Home (1978) Jon Voight won an Oscar for playing a veteran who was paralyzed in the Vietnam War.
  • In An Affair to Remember (1957) Deborah Kerr’s romantic rendezvous with Cary Grant is nearly derailed by a paralyzing accident.
  • In A Patch of Blue (1965) Elizabeth Hartman is a blind white woman who falls in love with a black man played by Sidney Poitier.
  • In Butterflies Are Free (1972) Edward Albert is a blind man attempting to break free from his over-protective mother.
  • In Johnny Belinda (1948) Jane Wyman is referred to as a “deaf-mute.”
  • In The Miracle Worker (1962) Anne Bancroft stars as Annie Sullivan and Patty Duke as Helen Keller.

As you can see, ahem, disability-focused movies are nothing new. But wouldn’t you think by now, it being the 21st Century and all, far more movies would feature actors and actresses who actually have disabilities themselves? In all the movies I watched when I could still see, I can only think of one where an actor with a disability played a character with a disability: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) featured Harold Russell (a real-life veteran who lost both hands when a defective fuse detonated an explosive he was handling) as a World War II veteran home from the war. Actress Marlee Matlin is deaf, and of course she won best actress for her role in Children of a Lesser God, but I wasn’t able to see that one – it came out in 1987, a year after I lost my sight.

There must be plenty of actors out there with disabilities who are looking for work. Can it be true that it’s been nearly 30 years since a major motion picture featured an actor or actress who has a disability? Please leave a comment and tell me I’m wrong!


 

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  1. Beth Finke Says:

    Thanks for this comment.It’s good news, and it isalso, if you’ll excuse my blind pun…eye opening!


  2. Sarah Says:

    The actor on Life Goes On had Down Syndrome. Katie LeCleric (Switched at Birth) actually does have hearing loss caused by Meniere’s Disease. Sean Berdy also from Switched at Birth is also actually Deaf. Lauren Potter from Glee has Down Syndrome. Kurt Yaeger is an amputee, he’s been in many things including Sons of Anarchy.


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