Disability Representation In Hollywood – The Pioneers You Probably Don’t Know Enough About – Forbes (Keely Cat-Wells | February 2022)

A young man with an artificial hand looking playfully into the camera

As the fight for disability inclusion and increased representation in Hollywood continues, Danny Woodburn, who you may know as Mickey Abbott from the sitcom Seinfeld, brings our attention to “some of the founding mothers and fathers of [the disability inclusion] movement in our industry”. Many of whom do not have millions of social media followers, non-Profit dollars or high-end publicists, but have dedicated twenty plus years of advocating for greater inclusion and have made an impact that ripples through the work and representation we witness today.

We have observed before about value and importance of disability being depicted on television and in the movies.  It goes without saying, but these should be actors who live with a disability that play disabled characters.  These pioneers in Hollywood should be recognised and celebrated for their important work.

Woodburn being one himself — who has an impressive resume with more than one hundred and fifty television credits to his name and thirty film appearances to date. Woodburn has consistently advocated for himself, “as a person with dwarfism to make sure I was not used in an inhumane or objectifying way, steering clear of the tropes around little people. And, at times, it cost me work and other times, it raised the game on my work with others. Such was the case on Seinfeld and Bones, among others. About three or four years into my career, I became a SAG [Screen Actors Guild] PWD [Performers With Disabilities] Committee member. Under the long-tenured leadership of Robert David Hall, I learned of a greater message about disability inclusion and employment in our industry. I watched as my new expanded community never seemed to find enough work even though it was out there, but others (non-disabled) we’re taking it.”

Robert David Hall is most known for his role as Dr. Albert Robbins, M.D. on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. In an interview with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, Hall says, “television and movies have such power to change the way people think”. In addition, Hall was the longtime chair of the Performers with Disabilities committee of SAG, helping to lay the foundation for the chairs that followed. Dave also testified before Congress, introduced President Obama at The White House for the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA20), and serves of Board of Directors of the National Organization on Disability.

We have observed before about value and importance of disability being depicted on television and in the movies.  It goes without saying, but these should be actors who live with a disability that play disabled characters.  These pioneers in Hollywood should be recognised and celebrated for their important work.

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