The new “Where We Are on TV” report from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation says characters with disabilities represent only 1 percent of scripted series regular characters — six out of 587 — on the five major networks.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2009 American Community Survey, about 10 percent of U.S. citizens age 16 to 64 report living with a disability. The GLAAD report tallied all regular characters on the 84 announced scripted series for the 2010/2011 season on ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox and NBC. This is the first time it examined characters with disabilities.
The report also says the networks fail to cast actors with disabilities; of the six characters played, only one actor has a known disability. The report did note that when it comes to guest star characters with disabilities, actors with disabilities seem more likely to be cast: The five live-action recurring guest star characters to appear this season will be played by actors with disabilities.
Anita Hollander, chair of the Tri-Union Inclusion in the Arts & Media of People With Campaign, said cable is more well-rounded: “Cable is leading the way when it comes to developing complex, multi-layered characters with disabilities, as well as the casting of actors with disabilities, something the broadcast networks should take a lesson from,” she said.