Disabilities in the Media and Popular Culture

As a person who works with people with disabilities I see on a daily basis the impact having a disability can have on a person’s life. I also see how empowering it is to overcome a disability and what a journey it can be. For many people their experiences with people with disabilities—whether mental, emotional, or physical— are limited to what they see and hear from the media or depicted in television and movies. That’s why it is so important to get it right; no one wants to be misrepresented, especially when that may be the only representation they get.

The disability community is the largest minority group in the world and the only one that any person can join at any point in his or her life; it is ever-changing, diverse and unpredictable. The Media Access Awards were created in 1979 with this aim in mind; promote awareness and accurate, inclusive depictions of people with disabilities in film, television and new media. It is their goal to increase the inclusion of disability in what people see and hear, and to raise public awareness, understanding and acceptance for people with disabilities and to start breaking the stereotypes.

This year on October 10 Jimmy Kimmel hosted the awards in Los Angeles, CA while celebrity guests included Jane Lynch from Glee, Helen Hunt, John Hawkes and more. Honorees included Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy, and Lauren Potter, actress from Glee.

With an estimated 56 million Americans living with disabilities the impact that film, the media and television has on people’s perceptions is astounding. That’s why it is so important for the portrayals of people with disabilities to be accurate. If you are interested here are some movies worth checking out that me and my co-workers recommend: My Name is Khan, Regarding Henry, Born on the Fourth of July, My Left Foot and I am Sam.

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