tv and autism

The lack of disabilities currently being represented on Australian Television

Television everyone watches it, either they watch it via a TV, or they live stream, or they use one of the numerous catch up services available to watch it at a later date. 

Television has the ability to reach every one at any time and can lead to numerous discussions in chat rooms or across various social media sites. Thoughts can range from the outraged (dependent on topic), to the tearful, to the love. Again its all down to the topic, show, etc. 

But why is it that in an age where we are becoming more socially aware and therefore creating content for specialist audiences are those within the disability community left out in the cold?

Yes admittedly we have been featured in TV shows we are usually only their to drive the story along, that is the only reason that character has been devised and created. Take for example an episode of the hit drama “Call the midwife”. In this episode, a woman dies and her downs syndrome son is taken in by the character Fred. During the episode Reggie (the son), in the subsequent scenes that follow show just how dependent Reggie was on his mum and that by the end Reggie is “shipped off” to a special place for Down Syndrome kids never to be seen again (apart from some scenes where he goes back to the house where he lived, is taunted in the street, and then is seeing being a garden helper with Fred at Nonnatus House.)

Not to bog you down with every disabled person who had acted on TV, but the whole point of this blog post is to try to figure out why we as disabled people aren’t fronting these types of shows?

Why can’t they have a disabled nurse/midwife? When will we see someone with down syndrome solving crime on the gritty urban streets of (insert your city here), we are we pushed to the background or only used as a story telling device? 

After doing a Google search I have come across some US TV shows where they are implementing the disabled character to the fore front, but its a relatively slim list of shows to be honest. And note that these are made in the US, what about Australia? Why do we have to rely on the US, why can’t we take the lead?

A recent piece of research by Screen Australia benchmarked the current diversity of Australian TV by analysing nearly 2000 main characters from 199 free-to-air Australian TV shows, similar to the USA – only 4 per cent of TV show characters in Australia had an identifiable disability. In reality, just over 18 per cent of Australians have a disability.

WOW just let that sink in. We are only worth a measly 4%???? 


The other issue is that when a TV show does put a call out for a character to have a disability can it be played by someone who actually has that disability and not by a non disabled person because quite frankly that is an insult. 

My message to Australian TV makers is this, please be more inclusive and please don’t leave us lagging behind forcing us into the background because you simply are only using us to guide your story along this indicates that you are embarrassed by us and would rather we just slink back into the background only to be bought out for diversity points. 


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