Fall lineup: actors with disabilities on TV

Max from NBC's "Parenthood"The new TV season has started, and it seems actors with disabilities are popping up on TV now more than ever. It’s one of the reasons I love Glee. The show has intentional positive messaging (mainly that it’s ok to be different) and it also has fresh plot lines, diversity and awareness characters.

I’ll start with Becky. She’s played by Lauren Potter, who has Down syndrome. And then there’s Robin Trocki, the actress who played Sue Sylvester’s big sister, Jean. Robin has Down syndrome too. And now last month Jordyn Orr debuted as Sue’s daughter. Both Jordyn and the character she portrays on Glee have Down syndrome. A story on ABC about actors with Down Syndrome said that showing actors who have real disabilities helps employers to see past a disability and consider the job seeker’s work ethic and skill set instead.

Let’s not forget actors who play characters with disabilities, either. Whether it’s Glee’s Kevin McHale, who plays a character named Artie who uses a wheelchair, or Parenthood’s Max Burkholder, who plays a character named Max who has Asperger’s, I believe the more the media includes realistic and positive examples of people with disabilities, the more society can move away from harmful stereotypes.

Using characters with disabilities on TV provides audiences with a good example of how to treat people who may be different than what they’re used to. Even the season premiere of Law & Order: SVU included a character who walks with crutches, and we got to see that character receive occupational therapy on the show.

I hope that through these actors and the characters they play on TV, the media can change how the public perceives people with disabilities. We learn a lot more from people who are different from us, and that’s why I’m thoroughly enjoying 2012’s fall TV lineup!


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