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Underrepresentation of Characters With Disabilities in Movies
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Underrepresentation of Characters With Disabilities in Movies

A research study that examines representation in movies has recently found that people with disabilities are severely underrepresented. It seems that a large number of shows and movies have deemed it unnecessary to depict people with disabilities in their casts. 

Disability representation in the top 100 movies released in 2015 and 2016 was part of a broader analysis that was also examining other groups. This group included people from the lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual communities. Women, racial and ethnic minorities were also part of the survey. 2.7% is the percentage figure of the characters who had disabilities and who also played speaking roles in movies that topped the Hollywood charts last year. This was according to the published report from the Media, Diversity and Social Change initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

It was then concluded that there was an extreme misrepresentation of these groups.

An author of the report, Stacy Smith, said that it was impossible to look at that data and not conclude that much of the advocacy surrounding on-screen representation over the past few years had not been successful.

In 2015, only 105 characters with disabilities were depicted. There was a slight improvement in 2016 when 124 characters with disabilities were portrayed on screen. However, this is quite far from displaying the 1 out of 5 Americans who actually have disabilities. This is as per the report findings.

Interestingly, it was noted by the authors that films that had not featured even a single character with a disability were 38 in total. On the other hand, movies that depicted a leading role in this group of people were a total of 15 people. 65% of those represented had physical disabilities, 22% had communication problems and 32% had mental disabilities.

Our future expectation is that we will be able to see positive improvements in the future. This is in regards to hiring practices and getting rid of explicit and implicit hiring practices.

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