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Why Disabled Representation in Children’s Media is Desperately Needed

Representationthe description or portrayal of someone or something in a particular way or as of being of a certain nature.

You would think that “representation” is a simple word, with a simple definition, that can be easily accomplished, but unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Representation comes in many forms in our lives, and the main form that we regularly see and are most influenced by is our modern media.

Media representation ranges from multiple things, including groups, communities, experiences, ideas, etc. from a particular ideological or perspective value, which is displayed on our televisions and iPhone screens daily.

Unfortunately, our media has had a problematic past while failing to represent outside of white, straight, able-bodied, middle-class communities. It was not until very recently that the majority of television shows and movies have decided to branch out and write/cast more minority roles.

There is one community, though, that still has a tough time being accurately represented, or even being represented at all, and that is the disabled community.

Though it’s arguable that disabled rep has gotten better over the years, from movies like “The Fault in Our Stars” or Amandla Stenberg’s new movie “Everything, Everything” (which you can read here why those movies aren’t exactly heroic for the disabled community, though.) it still needs to be greatly improved in all aspects of the media. And the one place that I think it should be incorporated into the most is in children’s media.

I’ve talked about the importance of children’s media before and I’ll talk about it again. Children’s networks such as Disney Channel and Nickelodeon are so impressionable among kids, and what these networks portray in their shows influence how our children will see and act out in the world.

I assume that most children’s networks are hesitant to add a disabled character to their shows, though, mainly because disabled characters are commonly stigmatised as dramatic and sad, whereas children’s shows always want to present a happy-go-lucky vibe. But the dramatic/sad stigma around disabled characters is not always necessary, and actually should be strayed away from in some circumstances. Just having a casual, reoccurring character, who also happens to have a disability, in a children’s show could help stop casual ableism found in kids and would mean so much to children with disabilities, like myself.

I have Cystic Fibrosis, and I cannot even begin to explain how much I wish I could have seen a character like myself on T.V. when I was growing up. When I was younger, I never liked talking about my disability because I felt different; I never knew that being different could be a good thing. Luckily, as I got older, I learned that what makes me different makes me unique, and from that realization is why I’m able to write articles like this.

I have a family member who is eleven and has a disability as well. I recognise that she is in the stage that I once was where she doesn’t like to talk about or think about her disability, and I completely understand. She also loves to watch shows on Netflix such as “Ever After High” and “Project Mc2.” Just imagine how amazing it would be for her to see a character like herself on one of those shows. Maybe it could help her, and the millions of other children in the world with disabilities, to see that their disability is not something to be ashamed of because it makes them “different,” instead, something to be proud of.

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