The TV industry favors disabled actors, claims the artist

Julia Fabby

An artist claims that actors with disabilities are frequently given roles to make the non-disabled people in charge of the creative industries look good.

Actors who have a visible disability are frequently limited to playing stereotypes, according to Ruth Fabby.

According to her, people with less obvious disabilities are being prioritized over those with hidden disabilities.

She recalled friends who had received the comment that they didn't appear blind enough to play a blind role.

Others have stated, "We want someone with learning difficulties, but we want them to have Down's syndrome because that's more obvious. ".

Ruth Fabby with her oxygen mask
Ruth quit her paid position at Disability Arts Cymru due to a lung condition.

Ruth, a playwright and performer who has had a hearing aid since she was six and who also has a lung condition, served on the Arts Council of Wales and was previously the director of Disability Arts Cymru.

Ruth, a resident of Dolgarrog, Conwy and a native of Liverpool, said: "Our presence is often to make non-disabled people look better because they're helping us - it sounds lovely but it's patronizing.".

"Why can't we just be treated like the commonplace individuals that we are?

Romeos should be disabled because it is important to normalize disability. ".

Chris in a recording studio
Chris Tally Evans chooses to focus primarily on his own work or on community and disability arts rather than "battering down the walls of the media.".

Ruth's frustrations are shared by Rhayader, Powys-based writer, musician, and artist Chris Tally Evans.

One particular category of disabled people, he continued, "makes us all go, ooh, look at them, they're being really inclusive and right on because they've got a wheelchair user, or an amputee, or somebody using a blade.".

You might not have been included if you have what is ostensibly, in terms of TV, a hidden impairment.

"Even when people seem to be attempting to do the right thing, I still question their motivations.

"I'm curious about who it's for—is it really for people with disabilities, or is it just to make the companies look good?".

Chris, who started losing his vision in his late 20s, claimed that after having a role as a blind man offered to him, it was later withdrawn due to health and safety concerns. Chris was then asked to train a non-disabled actor to take on the same role.

He admitted, "I was enraged.

He has made the decision to refrain from "battering down the walls of the media" and primarily works on his own initiatives or in the realm of community and disability arts.

He said, "It's bruising and too hard.".

Cara Readle
Cara Readle wants decision-makers in the industry to work more closely with actors who are disabled.

The Story of Tracy Beaker on BBC gave 12-year-old actor Cara Readle her big break in the business when she was chosen to play Layla Jones.

Cara, who is now 32 and has cerebral palsy, said, "I was very lucky, so I had no idea how hard this industry was going to be.

She claimed that nowadays, trying to get auditions takes up the majority of her time.

Cara Readle as Layla IN The Story of Tracy Beaker
In the 12-year-old Cara Readle's role as Layla Jones in BBC's The Story of Tracy Beaker.

As she put it, "Since I left university, it's been really difficult to kind of keep myself busy. When you email so many people and apply for so many parts, it can be discouraging, but you do have to keep positive, you have to keep going.".

In order to say they have at least interviewed disabled actors, Cara, a resident of Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, believes casting directors occasionally waste her time.

Even though everyone in the room had been kind to me, she said, "I've been to a lot of auditions, traveled all the way to London, and given my best audition, and I've come out knowing they're not going to cast a disabled actor as I just got that vibe, you kind of get that feeling off them.".

"You just know you're there so they can say 'yes, we saw actors for the part who were disabled,' but they don't really intend to cast them in the end. ".

Cara Readle outside CBeebies offices
Apparently, Cara has never encountered a disabled casting director.

She wants decision-makers in the industry to work more closely with actors who are disabled.

"If they just have a few meetings with a few disabled people, they don't even need to put on a show; they can just talk casually about what our needs would be.

She explained, "It's starting that conversation with able-bodied people in the industry.".

More disabled decision-makers would be even better, according to her. .

I've never encountered a casting director who was disabled, she claimed.

"More disabled casting directors, producers, and other members of the industry who can speak out are needed to promote inclusivity in both the industry and the works they create. " .

Her frustration is exacerbated by casting directors' hesitation to use her in non-disabled roles.

"TV shows and films are meant to reflect real life, and in real life we don't get to choose who has a disability, we don't get to choose who is born with cerebral palsy, so why can they choose in casting that this particular character can't have a disability," she said.

"It's not realistic, it's not real, and it's really upsetting that we can't just be cast in any role," we said. ".

According to Ruth, roles created for actors with disabilities frequently feature stereotypical disabled characters and "shallow narratives.".

In addition, she stated that "every Bond villain is always disabled in some way - they still play to that stereotype, that we're nasty and horrible or need help and support.".

Another stereotype, according to her, is that the person with a disability is "inspirational.".

We don't need to be motivational paralympians to be accepted, she said, adding that "I detest that narrative.".

Chris Tally Evans
Chris is against asking disabled actors to perform unpaid work.

Chris stated that he won't be content until disabled people are represented in their appropriate numbers at all levels of an organization, including in senior positions.

He also wants to stop asking people with disabilities to participate in focus groups "where everyone else in the room is getting paid for it" and to train non-disabled people about disabilities.

Ruth claimed that despite her problems, she had hope overall.

There are some excellent initiatives that are emerging, and over the years, I have helped shape some of them, she said.

"In the last five years, I've witnessed changes occurring very quickly. ".

Reverse mentoring, in which a person mentors a more senior person than themselves, is an effective tool, in Ruth's opinion, for assisting individuals in understanding the barriers that "people unintentionally put up, that unconscious bias.".

She also thinks productions should be aware they might be able to get funding from Access to Work to support disabled employees, and she would like to see access riders for everyone in a cast rather than just those with disabilities.

Access passport research, according to her, could "change the game.".

It can be as easy as asking, "What do you want me to do to help you?," as opposed to, "How can I help you?," to put the emphasis back on the individual's right to express their needs. .

We'll start to notice significant changes if we all accept that being disabled is either a part of who we are or that it is not yet. ".

Bauer, the BBC, Channel 4, Global, ITV, Paramount (which includes Channel 5), S4C, and STV are eight of the biggest broadcasters and collectively employ about 90% of those working in the UK.

Everyone who responded concurred that disabled talent is underrepresented on our screens.

  • In order to gather accurate statistics on the representation of disabled people and other underrepresented groups on its productions, S4C announced that it would take part in the Creative Diversity Network's Diamond project. The company claimed to have a number of broadcast projects that "give disabled talent a voice.".
  • ITV claimed that it was tackling the issue through programs like its Step Up 60 initiative for disabled writers in development, internal leadership development programs, and the requirement of disability inclusion training for staff. Through the TV Access Project (TAP), it claimed to be working with additional broadcasters.
  • According to Bauer Media Audio UK, it is currently in talks with a number of outside partners to get help in the areas of neurodiversity and disability. It claimed to be creating fresh strategies for utilizing information, education, and awareness to guarantee a satisfying working environment for everyone.

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