Sundance wants more Equality for those with Disabilities in Entertainment

On January 25th in Park City Utah celebrities with disabilities met at the world famous Sundance Film Festival to form a panel and discuss how more people with disabilities could be included in all forms of entertainment and art. Several Hollywood stars attended the event, including R.J. Mitte of "Breaking Bad" (who has cerebral palsy), and Paralympic athlete Amy Purdy (who was able to survive a meningitis infection, but lost both of her legs below the knee), and TV personality Montel Williams who has multiple sclerosis (MS). The panel suggested that Hollywood should aim to mirror what is happening in society. There are so many people with disabilities that are doing great things in the world of business, arts, and entertainment, and this should be spotlighted.

When I was growing up there were hardly any role models for those of us with disabilities, and those role models that did exist were often shown in a negative light. Initially, show’s like Fox’s Glee were praised for adding a disabled character like Artie, but we soon found out that hardly any actual wheelchair users were auditioned for the role. This could have been a great way to educate the world about disability and being a wheelchair user. A few season’s later the show’s writers added the actress Lauren Potter who actually has Down Syndrome and this has been a great way to start a conversation about inclusion. Her role was so successful that she has become a recurring character.

At AXIS, we empower all people to believe in their ability and dream big. Maybe one day down the road we will have our own reality show about what is like to be in an integrated dance company. I would like to encourage all network executives to create roles for those of us with disabilities, because we all need role models and to show the world we can do what everyone else can do.

Rebecca Fortelka
Blog Guest Editor