In a first for television, CBS has agreed to audition more actors with disabilities for disabled roles.
In June the network, which has CBS, CBS Television Studios and CBS All Access streaming, among their properties, signed a pledge from the Ruderman Family Foundation, becoming the first Hollywood studio to agree that auditioning more people with disabilities is a good thing.
“We understand that increasing auditions, no matter the size of the role, is a critical step toward achieving inclusion in the industry,” the pledge reads. “This studio pledges to increase the number of actors and actresses with disabilities who audition for parts in television and film.”
During the 2018-19 television season, there were eighteen characters with disabilities, however, ninety-five percent of those characters were played by typically developing actors. Of all the TV shows on TV and the internet (Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu), eighteen characters are far from a sufficient number.
In just one hour of television per week, there are way more than eighteen characters across all networks and the percentage of people with disabilities in the general public is way out of proportion to characters with disabilities. While it’s good to see characters with disabilities on TV, it would be nice to see writers add more characters to their scripts and make the numbers closer to real life.
“It is our hope that other major media companies will follow their lead and foster opportunities that will lead to more authentic representation of people with disabilities in popular entertainment,” said Jay Ruderman president of the foundation, which advocates for disability inclusion. “Enhanced visibility of disability on-screen will help reduce stigmas people with disabilities face in everyday life.”
As a person with a disability, I applaud what CBS is doing and sincerely hope that other television and movie studios will follow their lead and sign the pledge. We’ll all keep our fingers crossed and look for the other studios to soon follow CBS’ lead.
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