The Attitude Foundation is addressing the realistic portrayal of people with disability in television shows. We have selected 6 easy ways that could be adopted by Australian (and other) television stations and program makers to be more inclusive.
1. Interview some people with disabilities about non-disability topics
Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see a live news cross to a person with a disability being asked for their reaction to the latest government economic announcement? A variation on this is to Include people with disabilities in the studio audience for programs like Q&A (ABC) or Insight (SBS TV), especially when you are not talking about disability-related topics.
2. Have a regular diversity guest spot on the TV weather
A French TV station included a weather girl with intellectual disabilities, but this was a one-off. It could be a regular guest spot with lots of different people, including lots of different disabilities. Or we could go the whole way and just embrace people with disabilities presenting all of the time, like BBC weather announcer Lucy Martin (shown in the image at the top of this story).
3. Hire some people with disability to present mainstream shows
We are now used to seeing disabled presenters for programs like the Paralympics or programs about disability, but why not mainstream shows? A good example is C-Beebies UK presenter Cerrie Burnell - although there were concerns that she might scare the children with her disabled arm. Roving wheelchair-using host Ade Adepitan has presented a wide range of documentaries and travel shows and still does the odd Paralympics hosting when called on.
4. Flip the whole scientist miracle cure stereotype on its head
How about a scientist with a disability being interviewed about their ground-breaking work in a field that has nothing to do with disability? That is anyone but Stephen Hawking, who has been a little overexposed.
5. Give disabled kids some characters
Seeing people like yourself on television can help to normalise your feelings about who you are and your place in the world, and kids with disabilities are no different. We’d like to see more kids with disabilities appearing in mainstream shows and don’t just limit it to real people. Big tick to Sesame Street for casting a well-researched new character with autism.
6. Follow your own guidelines
The Australian free-to-air television industry has advisory notes that guides program makers and editors about how to realistically portray disability. Now we just need to get television stations to follow them more closely.
Further more information on this topic
An opinion piece by Attitude Foundation CEO Alex Varley outlines why the Foundation is going to make a TV series about disability.
American sitcom Speechless shatters the disability stereotypes with realistic portrayal of cerebral palsy.