Is it time to see more disabled actors on our screens?

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For a long time, the film and television industry have taken a step back when it comes to representing people with disabilities. Non-disabled actors have played disabled roles, but the tide is now turning as more and more disabled actors are stepping into the spotlight.

Born in Stoke-on-Trent, actress and film writer, Rachel Shenton, is set for glory as her film, The Silent Child, directed by Chris Overton, has been nominated for an Oscar.

The film tells the story of Libby, a deaf four-year-old girl, who lives a silent life until a social worker teaches her how to communicate through sign language.

The lead actress is 6-year-old Maisie Sly who was born into a deaf family.

Caitlin Darby, 23, studies MA Ceramic design at Staffordshire University. She said that actors with disabilities “Have the most experience so they can relate more to storylines.”

Over the years there has been a rise in the number of disabled actors in films and on television.

Liz Carr is an actress who suffers from a condition called Arthrogryposis multiplex congenita – this is a rare disease in newborns resulting in decreased flexibility of the joints.

Despite her condition, Carr plays the role of Clarissa in BBC drama, The Silent Witness.

Neil Ferneyhough, 67, is the Head of Wellbeing and Disability Support at Staffordshire University. He agreed that the number of people with disabilities in both stand up and documentaries has increased over the years. He said: “It’s about raising awareness and taking away the stigmas and preconceptions.

“If you talk to many people about what a disability is, their first thoughts are of people with a sensory or visual problem, a deaf person or a wheelchair user but there are all kinds of other disabilities such as autism.”

Charly Sherlock, 20, studies BA Social Welfare Law, Policy and Advice Practice at Staffordshire University. She said: “There’s no true representation of disabled people. They deserve to be treated equally because they are the same as the rest of us.”

Featured image taken from Wheel Life via creative commons licence.

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