According to an artist, the TV industry favors disabled actors

Fabby, Ruth

According to an artist, actors with disabilities are frequently cast in roles to enhance the appearance of non-disabled people who dominate the creative industries.

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

She claimed that people with hidden disabilities were being left out in favor of people with disabilities that were more obvious.

She recalled telling friends that they didn't appear blind enough to play blind roles.

Others have stated that they want a person with learning difficulties, but they also want them to have Down syndrome because it is more obvious. ".

Ruth Fabby with her oxygen mask
Due to a lung issue, Ruth resigned from her paid position at Disability Arts Cymru.

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

Ruth, who was born in Liverpool and now resides in Dolgarrog, Conwy, said, "Often our presence is 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 perceived as regular people like everyone else, which is what we are?

"We ought to have disabled Romeos; the goal is to normalize disability. ".

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

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

Because they have a wheelchair user, an amputee, or someone using a blade, "there's a certain type of disabled person who makes us all go 'ooh, look at them, they're being really inclusive and right on," he said.

"Perhaps you wouldn't have been included if you have what is ostensibly, as far as TV is concerned, a hidden impairment.

"I question people's motivations even when they appear to be trying to do the right thing.

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

Chris, who started losing his vision in his late 20s, claimed that after having a role as a blind man rejected due to health and safety concerns, he was then asked to train a non-disabled actor to play the part.

I was enraged, he admitted.

He has chosen not to "batter down the walls of the media" and now primarily works on his own initiatives or in the disability and community arts.

It's too hard and bruising, he said.

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

When Cara Readle was 12, the BBC's The Story of Tracy Beaker cast her as Layla Jones, giving her her big break in the business.

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

She claimed that the majority of her time these days is spent pursuing auditions.

Cara Readle as Layla IN The Story of Tracy Beaker
When she was twelve years old, Cara Readle played Layla Jones in The Story of Tracy Beaker on the BBC.

Since I left university, it has been extremely difficult for me to maintain some level of activity. When you email so many people and apply for so many roles, it can be discouraging, but you also have to keep a positive attitude and keep moving forward, she added.

Cara, a resident of Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, believes casting directors occasionally waste her time just to be able to claim they have at least interviewed disabled actors.

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.".

"You just know you're there so they can say 'yes, we looked at actors with disabilities for the part,' but they don't really intend to cast them in the end. ".

Cara Readle outside CBeebies offices
A disabled casting director has never existed, according to Cara.

She wants the industry's decision-makers to work with disabled actors more.

"If they simply meet with a few disabled individuals, they don't even need to dress up; they can just talk casually about what our needs would be.

It's starting that conversation with people in the industry who are physically fit, she explained.

Even better, she argued, would be to increase the number of disabled decision-makers. .

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

In order to make the industry and the work they produce more inclusive, there needs to be a greater number of disabled casting directors, producers, and other industry members who can speak out. " .

Additionally, she is aggravated by casting directors who refuse to use her in non-disabled roles.

"TV shows and films are meant to represent real life, and in real life we do not get to choose who has a disability, we do not get to choose who is born with cerebral palsy, so why can they choose in casting that this particular character cannot have a disability," she argued.

It's not realistic, true to life, and it's very upsetting that we can't just be cast in any role. ".

According to Ruth, stereotyped disabled characters with "shallow narratives" are frequently used when writing roles for actors with disabilities.

They continue to perpetuate the stereotype that people with disabilities are evil and needy, saying that "every Bond villain is always disabled in some way.".

Another stereotype, according to her, is that a disabled person is "inspirational.".

We don't need to be inspirational paralympians to be accepted, she said, "we just want to live our lives.".

Chris Tally Evans
Chris wants to put an end to the practice of hiring disabled actors for unpaid work.

Chris declared that he won't be content until disabled people make up their appropriate percentages at every level of an organization, including in senior positions.

Additionally, he wants to put an end to the practice of asking people with disabilities to participate in focus groups where "everyone else in the room is getting paid for it" and to participate in training sessions for non-disabled people on disability awareness.

Ruth claimed that despite the difficulties, she felt generally optimistic.

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

"Over the past five years, I have witnessed many rapid changes. ".

Reverse mentoring, which is when a person mentors someone who is more senior than them, is, in Ruth's opinion, a useful tool for assisting individuals in understanding barriers that "people inadvertently put up, that unconscious bias.".

She also thinks that access riders should be made available to everyone in a cast rather than just those with disabilities, and that productions should be aware that Access to Work may be able to provide financial support for their disabled employees.

Work being done on access passports, according to her, could "change the game.".

"It can be as easy as asking 'what do you want me to do to help you?' rather than 'how can I help you?'," she said. "This puts the emphasis back on the person having the right to say what they need. .

"You're either disabled or you're not; let's accept it as a natural part of our humanity. If we do, we'll start to notice significant changes. ".

BBC Wales contacted eight of the biggest media companies, including Bauer, the BBC, Channel 4, Global, ITV, Paramount (which also includes Channel 5), S4C, and STV, who collectively employ about 90% of media professionals in the UK.

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

  • S4C announced that it would take part in the Diamond project of the Creative Diversity Network to gather accurate statistics on the portrayal of disabled people and other underrepresented groups in its productions. It claimed to have a number of broadcast projects that "give a voice to disabled talent.".
  • ITV claimed that it was addressing the issue through programs like Step Up 60, an internal leadership development initiative for disabled writers, as well as by requiring disability inclusion training for all staff members. It claimed that as part of the TV Access Project (TAP), it was also working with other broadcasters.
  • In order to help it in the areas of disability and neurodiversity, Bauer Media Audio UK stated that it was in constant communication with a number of outside partners. It claimed to be creating novel approaches to use information, instruction, and awareness to guarantee a positive working environment for all.

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