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Can representation ever be invisible?

In our Disability Equality Workshops, we talk about representation and what it looks like.

Now, more than ever, we see diversity on our TV screens and online, and with a multitude of talented creatives and professionals being seen regularly, it’s often a lot easier to ‘see ourselves’ represented these days.

One area that could use a little more work is disability. My colleagues and I are always looking out for disabled characters in the TV we watch, particularly when the story isn’t about their disability…sadly we don’t have many examples of this. When it does happen it’s exciting for us and it shows progress.

Does representation just extend to people who look like us?

When thinking about this I wondered how we could represent disabilities that don’t show up physically. I came back to our point about the storyline not being about the disability, but just showing that disabled people exist and navigate life just like everyone else.

We rarely (I don’t know if I’ve ever seen…) see people on our screens struggling to read when it’s not part of the storyline. Have you ever seen someone struggling with anxiety when it wasn’t part of the show? Do characters ever talk about having hearing aids, ADHD, or chronic fatigue – and not be the main story of that character?

The more I think about it the more complicated it becomes. On the one hand, I’d love to see this on TV. Particularly shows that are designed to imitate real life like soap operas for example. However, it crossed my mind that people use TV and the internet to escape from reality. Do we always want to see ourselves, really?

I haven’t come to a final thought on this – I’d be glad to hear your views. Do you feel that you’re represented in media? If not, why do you think that is? If you are represented, how has this impacted you?

In the meantime…here are some household names you may not have known are disabled:

Emma Watson – Emma Watson has ADHD and has talked about being diagnosed and medicated whilst filming the Harry Potter series.

Jamie Oliver – TV Chef Jamie Oliver also has ADHD and was diagnosed in childhood. Jamie advocates for the use of diet and nutrition to manage his symptoms.

Daniel Radcliffe – The Harry Potter star has dyspraxia

Elton John – Did you know Elton John has epilepsy?

Jennifer Aniston – Jennifer Aniston has talked about having dyslexia, and how it made her feel when she was diagnosed in her 20s

Justin Timberlake – Singer Justin has OCD and ADD


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